Comparing ED’s New College Financing Plan to the Shopping Sheet

By Jill Desjean, Policy & Federal Relations Staff

Last week, the Department of Education (ED) announced a new beta version of the 2019-20 Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, for which it is soliciting input from volunteer institutions to inform the creation of a final version that will be released and implemented for the 2020-21 award year. The updated version features a new name, the “College Financing Plan,” which ED indicates is intended to reflect that enrollment in an institution of higher education represents a financial transaction, as well as that loans are often a part of the financial aid package.

Use of the beta College Financing Plan will be optional for the 2019-20 award year. Schools may choose to continue to use the Shopping Sheet for 2019-20. The College Financing Plan will be finalized and will fully replace the Shopping Sheet for the 2020-21 award year, but institutions will still have the option to use their own financial aid award notifications in place of, or in addition to, ED’s template.

It is not clear whether institutions that have committed to the Principles of Excellence (POE) in Executive Order 13607 (EO 13607)—and who are, as a result of that commitment, bound to using the Shopping Sheet—are obligated to use the College Financing Plan for the 2019-20 award year, or if they are permitted to choose between the Shopping Sheet and the College Financing Plan during this interim year until the College Financing Plan replaces the Shopping Sheet. NASFAA will be seeking guidance from ED related to POE schools.

ED has confirmed with NASFAA that institutions choosing to adopt the beta College Financing Plan should use the document from the Jan. 16, 2019 Electronic Announcement titled, “2019-2020 College Financing Plan Responsive Preview Template, PDF Format, 131KB, 2 Pages.” This is also the document for which ED is seeking feedback by April 1.

The Jan. 16, 2019 Electronic Announcement also includes the Institutional Metrics Data File, which contains Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) data, such as graduation rate and median borrowing rates, which are necessary to complete either the Shopping Sheet or the College Financing Plan.

Comparison of Shopping Sheet and College Financing Plan

While the overall look and setup of the Shopping Sheet and College Financing Plan are largely unchanged, the College Financing Plan makes some changes to data elements, renames some section headings, and expands on the data included under certain section headings.

Section Heading

Shopping Sheet (SS)

College Financing Plan (CFP)


Estimated Family Contribution

FM EFC listed under “Other Options” at bottom of page

Moved to top of page under its own heading

CFP includes both FM and IM EFCs


Includes tuition & fees, housing & meals, books & supplies, transportation, and other education costs

Retains same COA components as Shopping Sheet

Requires On-Campus and Off-Campus COAs to be reported separately


Grants and Scholarships

Limited to four data elements: Institutional grants/scholarships, state grants, Pell grant, and outside scholarships

Broken out into three subcategories

Individual awards are listed under relevant subcategory: Merit-Based Scholarships, Need-Based Grant Aid, and Employer Paid Tuition Benefits


Net Cost

Heading: “What You will Pay for College”

Heading changed to: “College Costs You Will Be Required to Pay”

CFP highlights this data field using a different color than the rest of the page

Options to Pay Net Costs

Includes work-study and federal loans

Adds other campus job to Work Options section

Adds Parent PLUS, Private Loan, Institutional Loans, and Other Aid That Must Be Repaid to Loan Options section

CFP adds work-study hours per week and associated interest rates with all loans; clarifies that amounts are annual.

CFP adds language encouraging borrowing less than the maximum amount.

Other Options

Includes EFC, payment plan, PLUS loan, American Opportunity Tax Credit, Military/national service benefits, private loans

Includes only American Opportunity Tax Credit and Military/national service benefits

CFP relocates EFC and PLUS loans to other sections of the template

Payment Plans no longer explicitly mentioned on CFP

Graduation Rate

Percent of full-time students who graduate within 6 years

Comparison of institutional graduation rate to similar institutions

Re-words to 150% of expected time to graduation vs. 6 years

Removes comparison to similar institutions

Continues to use IPEDS graduation rate for full-time, first-time students

Repayment Rate

Institutional percentage of borrowers entering repayment within 3 years of leaving school vs. national average


CFP eliminates repayment rate metric


ED has requested that institutions planning to adopt the College Financing Plan for the 2019-20 academic year or wishing to provide feedback communicate with ED via email to [email protected].


Publication Date: 1/22/2019

James W | 1/22/2019 5:59:00 PM

EFC move to top of the page, but no explanation that it is option to pay net cost.

Peter G | 1/22/2019 3:25:07 PM

Primary concerns:

1. Net cost: Heading changed to: “College Costs You Will Be Required to Pay”

Well, a) that implies net cost is precise rather than estimated, which is misleading and b) given that it includes indirect expenses it's not even necessarily true for many students, so it's often going to be wrong.

This is likely to be more confusing for students in the CC sector, in particular.

2. COA: Requires On-Campus and Off-Campus COAs to be reported separately

The template will hopefully be adaptable for institutions that don't have both.

Not a major concern, but a quibble:" CFP adds language encouraging borrowing less than the maximum amount."

We would all support this in principle. In practice, unless they market test it, it's probably just going to be clutter for most students, however. I do get why it's there, I just wish it felt like there were some effort into making it effective.

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