The very least students and parents should expect from a college is clarity about the bottom line.
The reality, with many schools, looks pretty fuzzy.
EduLaunchPad provides three examples of financial aid award letters in What is That Financial Aid Offer Letter Telling You? The post explains how to decipher which amounts in the letter are grants and scholarships, which are subsidized student loans and work-study, and which are private loans (the most expensive money).
As of this week, federal law requires each college to present a net cost calculator on its website. Of course, as we’ve read here, here, and here, be careful to rely too closely on the results. One hopes they will get better.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [CFPB] is trying to shine some light on the award letters, by offering a standard design for consumers to comment on. See the design here: Know Before You Owe. These three screenshots show portions of the design.
Here’s your homework: The CFPB would like to hear from you on the design. They’ve provided these questions, along with a space for comments.
- What do you like about it? What don’t you like? Think about these questions:
- Which information is absolutely critical?
- What other information would be helpful?
- Can you tell from this sample format which aid requires repayment?
- What will that repayment cost? For one year of school? For four years?
- If there was a web-based interactive version, what functionalities would you like to see?
The site also provides a list of information to be ranked in order of importance. Think clarity is important when you’re considering a quarter of a million dollar commitment? Give the CFPB some feedback.
- College Financial Aid Letters Targeted By Officials (huffingtonpost.com)
- Bucks Blog: A One-Page Form to Compare College Aid Offers (bucks.blogs.nytimes.com)
- See how much debt college will really put you in (money.cnn.com)