Vague Student Aid Letters Could Be Due for Congressional Fix

"Prospective college students struggling to understand the jargon of financial aid could get some clarity if Congress decides to set new requirements for college financial aid letters," Emily Wilkins writes in a blog post for Bloomberg Government

"Currently, thousands of college students receive financial aid letters that don’t list indirect costs of college, such as books and supplies, or don’t distinguish between how much a student qualifies for in loans and how much they qualify for in grants.

Requiring colleges to use simpler terms and breakdown prices is being considered by senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee as they work toward producing an update to the 2008 higher education law (PL 110-315.) But there’s debate as to whether standardization should include only a few aspects or the entire letter.

Lawmakers have put forward several bills since 2011 that prescribe a standard letter for all schools to use when notifying students of what aid they are eligible for, including bipartisan legislation (S. 888) from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.)

An association of financial aid administrators from around 3,000 colleges and universities has pushed back against a standardized form, saying that colleges need flexibility to orient their award letters toward their particular student populations.

The group, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, does require members to include specific elements including itemizing costs of attendance and awards and using standard terms. However, each school has the freedom to craft its own letter.

Unavoidable Complexity

'For our members, there is no one-size-fits-all,' said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. Even if Congress were to streamline the number of loans and grants given to students, paying for college would remain complex because many sources can pay for a student’s tuition, he said.

'You’ve got students and families, you’ve got private scholarship providers, institutional aid, state aid, federal aid,' he said. 'Emphasizing one over the other isn’t going to work for most schools.'

While not all NASFAA schools are in compliance, Draeger said anytime a school is notified that they don’t meet the requirements, there is always a willingness to change."

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: 1/24/2018

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