Students planning for college in South Carolina now have a tool that can show them how much student loans will cost them after graduating.
The S.C. Commission on Higher Education, the state’ s college oversight body, has rolled out the “Palmetto Calculator,” which promises to provide the most accurate picture of what students will pay for college, even after they graduate.
“One of the things we heard was there was a lot of different information out there, but you had to go to 10 or 15 different websites to get all the information,” Jeff Schilz, CHE interim executive director, said at a Monday media event. “Trying to estimate the cost is difficult. We think this is more comprehensive than any other data we’ve seen.”
While most college cost estimates rely on averages, the Palmetto Calculator allows students to select their college or university, major, meal plan, dorm, federal assistance, scholarship amounts, parental assistance and more from a drop-down menu.
The result shows the total cost of college, the monthly student loan payment and the starting salary for graduates of that program statewide. The results will compare costs to other S.C. colleges that offer the same program.
“We’re here to help families and students attain the highest degree they or their children want ... in an economic fashion that’s relevant to them and to our state,” Commissioner Terrye Seckinger said.
The Palmetto Calculator, which went live Monday afternoon, uses data provided by colleges and applies only to undergraduates seeking a degree from four-year schools. Technical Colleges are not included, Schilz said.
The tool is a part of the commission’s GetSmartSC program, a website that aims to be a one-stop shop for prospective students, returning students, veterans and other nontraditional students to enroll in college. One of the key parts of the program is getting students and parents to fill out their Federal Application For Student Aid, or FAFSA, Schilz said.
The commission said it created the websites in response to feedback it heard from students, parents, teachers and others at their town hall meetings throughout the state.
“Eventually, there needs to be some sort of help desk component to it,” Schilz said.
The commission spent a year creating and testing the Palmetto Calculator.
Johnathan Solomon, a senior at the College of Charleston, said the program would have come in handy when he was preparing for college.
“It was definitely difficult doing it yourself,” Solomon said at the media event. “Taking the first step was the hardest part.”
To use the calculator, log onto https://getsmartsc.com/palmetto_calculator/