One of the dangers of shopping for colleges is looking only at the so-called "sticker" price. The analogy is car shopping. When you go to a dealer's showroom or car lot and wander among the shiny new vehicles there, perhaps your first stop is the price sticker in the window behind the driver's door. This usually results in the common syndrome called Sticker Shock, when your head spins and your wallet (not to mention your credit rating) groans.
Same thing with colleges. Look on most any college's Web site these days. What do you see under "student budget"? Hint: A total annual cost of anywhere between $16,000 and $60,000. In some cases, that doesn't even include the cost of books and sundries. But wait a minute. Are those numbers really what you'll have to pay? Enter the Net Price Calculator, which is due to debut October 29, less than two weeks from now.