Report on Graduate/Professional Financial Aid Award Letter Consumer Testing, 4:15 pm and 5:15 pm

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

NASFAA’s Consumer Information & Law Student Indebtedness Task Force on Sunday afternoon presented the findings of its report on consumer testing for financial aid award letters among graduate and professional students, which showed that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work for presenting information about financial aid and other financing options.

The task force, which was formed following NASFAA’s receipt of a grant from Access Group, was charged with determining what consumer information would be most helpful to current and prospective law students. Through consumer testing conducted by Coffey Consulting, LLC, the task force has made recommendations on how financial aid award letters and the Department of Education's (ED) Shopping Sheet can be modified to help students make better-informed borrowing and enrollment decisions.

The key takeaways of the report include:

  • Shopping sheets and letters cannot be uniform, as different students want different information and different ways of having information presented to them;
  • Consumers assume the information they need is up front, and may not read the fine print; and
  • Students very much want the contact information of a financial aid counselor and need one-on-one time to discuss their options.

The report also shows that there is a fine line between presenting students with too much information or not providing them enough information, and that students want better ways to compare their offers.

Gina Soliz, chair of the task force, said that the “most surprising thing [from the report] was that, for the exact same reasons, people liked or disliked the exact same things” about each of the sample shopping sheets used in the study.

The report, which was presented to NASFAA’s Board of Directors late last week, included several recommendations based on the findings of the consumer testing. Among them was the recommendation to develop a calculator to help students determine the amount the need to borrow while enrolled and to move towards standardizing the financial aid terminology used in award letters and shopping sheets. The task force also recommended more consumer testing to determine if students understand the basics of financial aid, and that Grad PLUS loan eligibility be listed on an award letter.

Stay tuned to Today’s News for more coverage of the task force and its report in the coming weeks.

 

Publication Date: 7/10/2016

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