Students shouldn't take tuition costs at face value, experts say.

Scouring the web for college tuition estimates may no longer give students and their parents an acute case of sticker shock.

Two years after the U.S. Education Department (ED) told colleges and universities that their websites would have to include a net-price calculator by October 2011, a new site called has come out with a tool that shows students what they’ll have to pay out of pocket to attend college.

Accounting for financial aid eligibility, grade point average, and standardized test scores, for example, can knock thousands off the “sticker price” of tuition posted on a university’s website. Sometimes, that sticker price can be cut in half – and maybe more.

Providing an accurate tuition estimate to the web-searching public could encourage high school students to apply to campuses with seemingly sky-high tuition rates, said Scott Anderson, president and cofounder of edLaunchPad, which made its debut in November.

More realistic cost projections would also be a relief for parents who are overwhelmed by the prospect of saving $50,000 for their child to earn a college degree, he said.

“You look around and you get these astronomical numbers that really dissuade people from wanting to tackle the issue early on and save,” said Anderson, a financial planner for 12 years before starting eduLaunchPad. “These numbers just seem mind boggling to a person starting a family, so they decide many times just not to save.”

Online net-cost tools have helped debunk persistent myths about college applications, tuition, and fees. For instance, private colleges aren’t always more expensive than state schools.