Financial Aid Award Letters Get a Makeover

Many students who have applied for financial aid from their college have had great difficulty deciphering their acceptance letters. This has less to do with a student’s understanding of their financial aid package, and more to do with inconsistent terms and jumbled mathematics used by institutions in their letters.

Good news! Financial aid letters are new and improved! They are officially on their way to becoming easy to read and understand. According to The Chronicle, the Obama administration has released what they are calling the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. This Shopping Sheet is a model acceptance letter for students receiving financial aid. The standardized information that will appear in the letter includes:

  • Total net cost of education
  • Median federal aid among all students at the institution
  • Average monthly payments for this median amount
  • The school’s loan-default rates
  • The school’s graduation rates
  • Any available grants, loans, or other financial aid options

Unfortunately, schools are not required to use the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet — yet. It is currently a voluntary letter template. There is a great deal of discussion as to whether or not schools should have to use this template. Some argue that each college should be able to design their own letter. Other schools, like Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, plan on utilizing the Shopping Sheet already this year.

U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, sheds some light on the future of the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. He says that it is his hope and expectation that many schools will follow the footsteps of Mount Holyoke. If there are schools that refuse to be clear and upfront about the cost of tuition with their students, what else might they have trouble communicating? It will speak well of schools to follow suit and present their students with concise information and financial aid options.

If you would like to keep up with this story, follow the actions of Senator Al Franken of Minnesota (@alfranken). He has introduced a bill to Congress that would make the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet mandatory for all colleges and universities. His bill is titled Understanding the True Cost of College Act.

What do you think? Should all schools be required to send the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet to their applicants?

Do you have an experience with a jumbled acceptance letter or a deciphering success story? Share it here!

Find out more about financial aid and how to pay for school on Cappex!

Original Post Date: July 31st, 2012

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