In Case You Missed It: Mr. Ethics Discusses Award Letter Wording

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Dear Mr. Ethics,

I have recently been asked to review my school’s award letter, since it has been a while since we updated it. One of the line items I’m concerned about is “Unsub Stafford.” Of course, my colleagues and I all know that this refers to a loan—a Direct Unsubsidized Loan given by the federal government, to be exact. But I think the program name has changed and I’m concerned our students will be confused by the jargon. This has been on our award letter for a long time and I don’t want to call this to my director’s attention if it’s no big deal. Advice?


A Loan By Any Other Name…



Good catch! NASFAA's Code of Conduct states that institutional award notifications shall include “clear identification of each award, indicating type of aid, i.e. gift aid (grant, scholarship), work, or loan,” as well as “standard terminology and definitions, using NASFAA's glossary of award letter terms.” I’m just going to hazard a guess that most incoming freshman on your campus would never think “Ah! A loan!” when they see the phrase “Unsub Stafford.” Bring NASFAA’s Code to your director and ever-so-gently suggest that he or she review the glossary of recommended terms and use some of that language instead.

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Publication Date: 3/9/2017

Peter G | 4/7/2015 6:28:35 PM

I think David's right - I'd say it's only an ethical issue if it's worded that way with the intent to obfuscate. And then somehow you intend to get them to also sign a promissory note at "" without noting the word "loan" cropping up there a dozen times.
If it's confusing you should clarify, both for their benefit and potentially yours as well.

David S | 4/7/2015 11:18:42 AM

Don't know if this is so much an ethical issue as opposed to a customer service issue, but good rule of thumb - especially in an era in which Senators complain about reading award letters and sitcoms show kids hyperventilating about them - if you think it might be confusing, it's confusing. Make it more clear, then ask someone with no financial aid experience if they can understand it, and then be prepared to clarify it even further.

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