The Long Story of the Movement Toward College Cost Clarity

"Once upon a time, paying for college was a relatively simple task. Parents who could often did. Teenagers with parents who lacked either the ability or the willingness to pay worked their way through school, which was easy enough to do at many schools before 1985 or so," The New York Times reports.

"But then came rising costs and student loans, of which there are countless iterations, from the federal government and state agencies and private entities. Repayment plans proliferated, too, depending on your income and profession and the type of loan you had. And many colleges split their own grants and discounts into those based on financial need (where the aid offer is sometimes predictable) and ones based on academic merit (where the offers are often unpredictable).

Most of the professionals who added these features to the system did so for reasons that made perfect sense at the time, but their collective effort has left us with a process of inordinate complexity. It is so bad, in fact, that it has inspired a little-noticed burst of bipartisanship in Washington designed to fix some of the mess.

This unlikely buddy act stars Senators Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, and Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. They are co-sponsors of three pieces of legislation designed to make the cost of college clearer before applying to a school, before picking one and on a continuing basis while trying to complete a degree.

Each law would impose new rules on colleges and universities. Attempting to add regulation is not a standard Republican reflex. But given that federal loans and financial aid formulas sit at the center of much of the confusion, Senator Grassley believes this is a market that the government created, at least in part. So legislators owe it to their constituents to improve the way it functions.

... These bills will probably not get much of a hearing on their own, so they’re more likely to be included in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Whether that will happen (as it is supposed to) in the next year or so is anyone’s guess.

In the meantime, there is nothing stopping you from doing all of the things that these bills would make the schools do for you. Use a search engine to find the net price calculator for the schools that interest you, as some schools hide them on their sites. You can also go to College Abacus’s website to compare the results from different schools, if the schools haven’t blocked College Abacus’s tool, that is.

Once the award letters start arriving, consult Ms. Clark’s letter-reading advice that ran in Money Magazine. You should also look at the Institute for College Access and Success’s tips for interpreting the documents and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ glossary."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 10/20/2017

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