NASFAA Submits Comments on Financial Aid Award Letters

In response to the Department of Education’s request for comments on ways to improve financial aid award letters, NASFAA submitted its suggestions for a financial aid award letter model and best practices.

In its comments, NASFAA states that standardization should apply primarily to definitions and terminology rather than format or, for the most part, organization of content. A model or models of award letters would be very useful, but the implementation of an exact, standardized award letter would be detrimental.

NASFAA believes that four elements belong in an award letter because they foster informed decisions about accepting aid, assist families in financial planning, and facilitate apples-to-apples comparisons between schools by students still trying to decide where to attend. Those four elements are:

  • Cost of attendance
  • Estimated costs that remain after gift aid is subtracted
  • Self-help aid offered and/or recommended by the school and the amount of estimated costs remaining for the student and family to fund
  • Cost of borrowing

The concept of an "award letter" should encompass more than a single sheet of paper and should be viewed as encompassing accompanying materials so that the most important information can be presented as neatly as possible. The comments include a sample chart to aid the discussion of how information might be organized along those lines.

ED will be holding a public meeting to discuss recommendations for the improvement of award letters on Sept. 13, 2011. Parties interested in attending the meeting must register by Sept. 7, 2011 by following the instructions provided in the Federal Register.