ED Releases Beta 'College Financing Plan' to Replace Shopping Sheet

By NASFAA Policy & Federal Relations Staff

The Department of Education (ED) has released an updated version of the Shopping Sheet for the 2019-20 year with several updates. Among the changes is the name itself, changing from the Shopping Sheet to the "College Financing Plan," to more accurately highlight the prevalence of loans in some financial aid packages and emphasize the fact that students are "making a financial transaction when enrolling in college," according to ED's announcement.

The College Financing Plan template is being released as part of a beta test, which ED hopes to learn from and update accordingly for the 2020-21 year, with more customizability and additional data elements. For 2019-20, schools that have agreed to utilize the Shopping Sheet will not be required to use the updated College Financing Plan template, although ED is hoping schools will experiment with the updated form this year. Schools that voluntarily utilize the updated template are being asked to submit comments to ED no later than April 1, 2019 to inform future iterations.

ED made these changes after reviewing NASFAA's "No Clear Winner: Consumer Testing of Financial Aid Award Letters” report, as well as other comments that have been submitted on the Shopping Sheet. In 2012, NASFAA contracted an independent research firm to consumer test ED's Shopping Sheet and two NASFAA-designed alternative financial aid award notifications with students through focus groups and a questionnaires. The NASFAA study tried to ascertain how consumers would understand the information on a model or standardized award notification. Overall, no clear winner rose to the top, and students helped identify the strengths and weaknesses of each format.

“We are pleased to see the Department take seriously the role of consumer testing in developing and updating student and parent disclosures,” said NASFAA President Justin Draeger. “We will be taking a close look at ED’s proposed updates and plan to consumer test them with students as we’ve done in the past. The financial aid community looks forward to working with our federal partners, students, parents, and counselors to ensure that financial aid information is provided in the clearest way possible.”

ED confirmed that the Shopping Sheet site should be updated within the coming days.


Publication Date: 1/17/2019

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