Ten presidents and chancellors of colleges and state higher education systems announced Tuesday that they would begin providing students with clearer information on college costs, financial aid and tuition prices.
The meeting conjured up a one-page college "shopping sheet" developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The sheet would provide students and parents details about college costs using standardized data, such the price of a year of college, including tuition, fees and other costs; the net price after grants (but not loans) are taken into account, and the estimated monthly payments for any loans included in the aid package.
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The bureau's hand in this process is voluntary, and whether other colleges will follow suit remains to be seen.
The list of colleges committing to the new forms is Arizona State, North Carolina A&T State, and Syracuse Universities, Miami-Dade and Vassar Colleges, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Providing clearer information about college prices and financial aid will benefit colleges and students alike, Nancy Zimpher told Higher Education. "I think we as institutions will be recruiting a more informed student body, and that's good for everybody."
Many parents say that financial aid award letters are too confusing and difficult to compare. Some colleges will tell families their expected contribution is very low-after calculations that factor both student and parent loans into account. The letters often don't include information about loan terms and interest rates, which can add to the impression that loans lower college costs rather than deferring them to be repaid later.
Colleges will begin using the sheets in the 2013-14 academic year.