NAICU Letter to the Washington Post

April 17, 2012

April 17, 2012

Letters to the Editor
Washington Post

Re: "Online comparison-shopping tool makes costs of college clearer," Michelle Singletary column, April 14

To the Editor:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's college cost website can be useful for comparing financial aid award letters and is graphically appealing. However, the site's entry point provides confusing and inaccurate information that muddies the true cost of college.

From the site's estimates of average annual debt, it is clear CFPB is failing to use federal data sources correctly. CFPB grossly overestimates the average annual debt of students at four-year private and public colleges. The reported numbers are actually closer to the average total debt of graduates, according to Project on Student Debt data. CFPB also fails to take into account Federal Work-Study; federal tax benefits; loan forgiveness; money contributed by students from summer jobs; and funds from family savings.

It is unfortunate CFPB launched its site in April, just as students are deciding their college choice. The CFPB needs to pull the site down until it has fixed the confusing terminology and inaccurate data. Until then, students and their families should be wary of it. Instead, turn to the other federal and private-sector resources available, use the net price calculators available on every college website, and talk to college financial aid offices. These steps, not the CFPB site, will make the costs of college clearer.


David L. Warren
National Association of Independent Colleges & Universities

MORE News from NAICU