Waiting for college acceptance letters can be a nerve-racking experience filled with excitement and anticipation, but once approved, students and their families begin another anticipatory wait for financial award letters. The letters, which intend on laying out the cost of college, too often do a poor job of providing the bottom line on how much aid, grants and scholarships, and student loans will be needed to pay for college.
To help solve this problem, the Obama Administration released a model financial aid award letter today called the Shopping Sheet. The Shopping Sheet will standardize award letters, making it easier to comparison shop and provide students with key information including:
- How much one year of school will cost;
- Financial aid options to pay this cost, with a clear differentiation between grants and scholarships, which do not have to be repaid, and loans, which do;
- The net costs after grants and scholarships are taken into account;
- Vital information about student results, including comparative information about default rates, graduation rates, and median debt levels for the school;
- And potential monthly payments for the federal student loans the typical student would owes after graduation.
To coincide with the release, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent an open letter to college and university presidents, asking them to adopt the Shopping Sheet as part of their financial aid awards starting in the 2013-14 school year. In the letter, Duncan explained that “we must unravel the mystery of higher education so that students can invest wisely and make the best, most informed decision possible about where to enroll.”