Today, the U.S. Department of Education released an updated version of the administration's financial aid model award letter, known as the Shopping Sheet, and announced that nearly 2,000 institutions of higher education have voluntarily committed to using this important consumer tool.
Unveiled in July 2012, the Shopping Sheet is a resource developed jointly by the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to make it easier for students to understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for, and easily compare aid packages offered by different higher education institutions. The Shopping Sheet gives students a standardized, yet personalized form that clearly spells outbefore students enrollhow much grant money they will receive and how much they may need to take out in loans to cover out-of-pocket expenses. When the tool was released in 2012, Secretary Duncan sent an open letter to college and university presidents asking them to voluntarily adopt the Shopping Sheet, to replace or supplement their financial aid award letters for the 2013-14 school year.
"I am pleased to report that nearly 2,000 institutionsrepresenting 8.1 million undergraduateshave now voluntarily committed to using the Shopping Sheet," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The Shopping Sheet helps prospective students navigate the often daunting process of selecting and paying for higher education. Providing students and families with clear, easy-to-compare information about college costs is an important part of the administration's efforts to improve college access and affordability."
Since the Shopping Sheet's initial release, the Department has received feedback from students, guidance counselors, and financial aid administrators on ways to modify the Shopping Sheet, which are now reflected in the revised version, effective in the 2014-15 school year. In addition to minor language changes to improve clarity, the Shopping Sheet has added a glossary to better explain financial aid terms. A detailed breakdown of the updates is available in a new blog post by the Department.
While the primary goal of the Shopping Sheet is to enable students and families to better compare aid offers between institutions, it also provides a host of outcome information about each school, including graduation, loan default, and median borrowing ratesall aimed at providing as much information as possible to make informed decisions about where to attend college.
The Obama Administration has set a goal for our nation to lead the world in college completion by the end of the decade, and making college more affordable is critical to reaching that goal. The revised Shopping Sheet announced today is one of several consumer disclosure tools developed by the Obama Administration to ensure that students are equipped with the information they need when investing in higher education. Others tools include the College Scorecard, college affordability and transparency lists, financial awareness counseling tool, and the financial aid toolkit.
For more information on the Shopping Sheet, including a list of participating institutions, visit www.ed.gov/financial-aid-shopping-sheet