Analysis: Changes to ED's Final Version of the Revamped Shopping Sheet

By Jill Desjean, NASFAA Policy & Federal Relations Staff

Last week, the Department of Education (ED) released its final version of the redesigned Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, now renamed the College Financing Plan (CFP). First introduced in 2013-14, the Shopping Sheet was available through the 2019-20 award year, when it was offered in addition to the beta version of the redesigned and renamed CFP. While there is no set date by which the Shopping Sheet will expire, ED will only continue to annually update the CFP from this point forward.

The January version of the CFP contained several significant changes from the Shopping Sheet. It added the Institutional Methodology (IM) Expected Family Contribution (EFC), separate on- and off-campus Costs of Attendance (COA), loan interest rates, and work-study hours per week. It also broke down grant aid by source and moved parent and private loans under the “Loan Options” heading. NASFAA noted in its recommendations that not all institutions calculate an IM EFC, or an on-campus COA if they don’t offer institutional housing, and noted the difficulty of disclosing private loan interest rates or work-study hours per week since those vary and are often not within the control of, or even known to, the financial aid office. These items, however, were retained in the final version. 

ED noted in its release of the final CFP that its changes were informed by NASFAA’s work, including its survey of financial aid administrators and consumer testing, both conducted in spring 2019, as well as its previous Shopping Sheet consumer testing conducted in 2012. Notable changes between the proposed and final CFP include the removal of consumer information on graduation rates and median borrowing. NASFAA’s consumer testing revealed that students and families did not find this information helpful in the context of the financial aid offer. 

NASFAA had also communicated to ED that students and families expressed a desire during consumer testing for better explanations of financial aid terminology and of the terms of the aid they were offered. To that end, ED added new explanatory text under the “Scholarships and Grant Options” and “Loan and Work Options” headings to describe which types of aid need to be repaid and which do not. 

New text was also added above the line item for Parent PLUS Loans to distinguish those loans from student loans. This addresses a concern NASFAA raised in its recommendations that including the parent loan in the same section as student loans appeared to conflict with ED’s April 2019 financial aid offer guidance that advised institutions to avoid listing parent and student loans together.

NASFAA has made ED aware of a discrepancy between its FAQ language and the CFP with respect to offered student loan amounts. The FAQ instructs institutions to offer loan amounts based on the student’s financial circumstances, which it states may result in loans being offered for less than the student’s eligibility, or even zero. However, the CFP “Loan Amounts” section indicates that loan amounts listed reflect the maximum available to the student. Watch Today’s News for updates on this issue.

ED’s accompanying FAQ document states that software providers are confident that participating institutions will be able to implement the College Financing Plan during the 2020-21 award year.

 

Publication Date: 9/12/2019


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