The Hope Center

RPC Toolkit

Young single mom studying for college exam


Widespread confusion over college prices makes it hard for students to earn college degrees. The Hope Center’s The Real Price of College project aimed to help reduce that confusion for students. From 2019 to 2021, we worked with six colleges and universities in Texas and conducted research with students at Temple University to:

  • learn what happens when financial aid staff have more nuanced information about students’ financial
    need, as operationalized by negative Expected Family Contribution (EFC);
  • help financial aid staff identify and increase their comfort with referring students to resources beyond financial aid; and
  • provide students with better information on college costs.

Toolkit Overview

This toolkit synthesizes the research and resources developed by The Hope Center throughout the project. In the subsequent pages, you will find: 

  • Research Findings
  • Read the results from our research at six colleges and universities in Texas and at Temple University. Discover what happens when colleges better understand students’ financial needs and students better understand college costs.

  • Calculating and Using Negative EFC
  • Learn how college practitioners and policymakers can use negative EFC to gain a more nuanced understanding of students’ need. Then use our Excel spreadsheet to calculate a student’s negative EFC yourself!

  • College Resources
  • Explore resources that financial aid practitioners can use with students to demystify the cost of college.

We’d love to get your feedback on these resources! Please fill out the following form to tell us about how/if this toolkit helped you and any suggestions for improvement.


This project was made possible thanks to generous support from Lumina Foundation. Leading financial aid researchers Dr. Robert Kelchen of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Dr. Douglas Webber of Temple University, and Dr. Derek Price of DVP-PRAXIS LTD contributed their collective expertise to this effort.

Participating colleges included:

Amarillo College
Dallas College
El Paso Community College
San Jacinto College
The University of Texas at El Paso
West Texas A&M University

Research with students was also conducted at The Hope Center’s home institution, Temple University.

We are grateful to Lumina Foundation for making this work possible.

Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis that is committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all. We envision a system that is easy to navigate, delivers fair results, and meets the nation’s need for talent through a broad range of credentials. Our goal is to prepare people for informed citizenship and for success in a global economy.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Lumina Foundation, its officers, or employees.