Your Guide to Comparing Financial Aid Packages

If understanding your award letter wasn’t hard enough, many students base their college decision on what school can offer them a better deal financially, meaning students and parents now have to sort through loans, grants, scholarships, work study programs, and total costs of attendance to get the big picture. Because two or more schools will all cost a different amount and have different programs available for financial assistance, the big picture isn’t always easy to get.

The major points to consider when reviewing two or more award packages is the total cost of attendance for all schools, and how those schools plan to assist you financially. For the most part, a more expensive school will cost you the most, as much of your aid may be in student loans, which you’re required to pay back after graduation. But by taking a closer look at how your needs are being met, you may find the best deals where you didn’t expect them. If your need is mostly being met with grants and scholarships (money you’re given as opposed to having to pay back) at an expensive school, it may in fact be about the same price to attend that school as it would a cheaper school. It may even BE cheaper. Compare the schools by figuring out what you’ll end up paying for each one. Luckily, technology has granted us with a faster, easier, and more simple way to understand the big picture.

According to a recent article entitled “New Way to Compare Financial Aid Awards” by Beckie Supiano published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a new web site created by The Consumer of Financial Protection Bureau can allow for students and parents to see the big picture just by typing in a few bits of information.

The interactive web site allows for students and parents to enter the colleges for which they have received an award letter, followed by how much money they are getting from various programs, and how much money they expect to contribute on their own. The web site can then rate on a scale of high to low how much debt you’re likely to accumulate by attending. The web site can also give students an idea of how much money they can expect to pay on a monthly basis in student loans once they’ve graduated. For students who have not yet applied to college, the web site can show the average amount students generally receive from different programs. In addition, the web site can supply average graduation rates for the institutions you’ve selected. It’s the hope of The Consumer of Financial Protection Bureau for all schools to adapt a system like this web site for students and parents to truly understand what they’re getting involved in, financially; however, according to the article, many institutions in general were not interested in this type of format. If you’re applying for an associates or bachelors degree, see what you’ll be paying for college!

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