NAICU Washington Update

Administration Promotes “Shopping Sheet” as Standardized Student Aid Award Letter

July 27, 2012

This week, with some fanfare, the Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released their “Shopping Sheet,” a form intended to give prospective students and their families standardized information on colleges’ student financial aid awards. 

While adoption of the form is voluntary, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has sent an open letter to college presidents, urging them to use the new form for their student aid packages for the 2013-14 academic year.  Also, institutions signing the Veterans Administration “Principles of Excellence” will have committed to using the form with their military and veteran students.

The two agencies have been exploring ways to improve transparency on the cost of going to college.  Even before the July 24 “shopping sheet” announcement, their efforts had received a great deal of attention, given the public and government concerns about college costs, and growing worries about the effects of student loan debt on college graduates and the overall economy.  That interest is likely to continue.

Earlier this year, CFPB posted a draft version of the “shopping sheet” for public comment.  It was one of several administration initiatives to give students appropriate financial information at various stages in their planning for college.  The new shopping sheet has been combined with another of those initiatives -- the Department of Education’s model student aid award letter.  The new form incorporates many of the recommendations from the higher education community and the public.  Nevertheless, inherent difficulties remain in standardizing information to guide a diverse college-going public as they compare an equally diverse range of higher education institutions.  In addition, software has not yet been developed to support this form--although development work is underway.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has praised the intention of the agencies and acknowledged improvements, but urges colleges to carefully review the form to determine its appropriateness to meet the needs of each college’s students.  NAICU will continue to review member feedback on whether the “shopping sheet” can provide the clarity and flexibility necessary for meaningful comparisons across the broad range of institutions that comprise the association’s membership.


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