Arizona State University is now prepared to more clearly inform students about the cost of their education after the institution pushed for a nationwide reform program to improve financial transparency.
ASU will be among the first universities to provide students with a “shopping sheet” that will help students easily evaluate their college costs as they compare financial aid packages from different institutions. The university will issue the forms in the spring for students enrolling in the 2013-2014 school year.
ASU is one of the first colleges to commit to the shopping sheet, which was developed with the input of 10 universities. ASU President Michael Crow was part of a consulting group that worked with the U.S. Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the independent agency established in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Crow’s work included meeting with Vice President Joe Biden this summer in Washington.
The form was developed to prevent the confusion students and families have faced when deciding whether to take out a loan, how much the loan will cost in the future and how to compare offers from other colleges.
ASU was part of the initiative because it wants to improve transparency so students will know what they owe and what options exist as they select a college, said Missy Pizzo, interim executive director of student financial assistance.
“Communicating a financial aid package to individuals can be a challenge,” Pizzo said. “There are so many factors that come into play and how you communicate that information is critical, so they understand ‘What does it cost for me to attend?’”
The form lays out critical information on a single page. The sheet lists how much one year of college will cost and explains financial aid options such as the difference between grants, scholarships and loans. It shows estimated loan payments after graduation, as well.
The sheet depicts the college’s graduation rate and how the university’s loan default rate compares with similar institutions.
The U.S. Department of Education urged colleges this summer to adopt the shopping sheet for the 2013-2014 school year. A template for the form was finalized this summer.
Pizzo said ASU and other colleges have provide some of the information for years, but not always in the same format.
“The purpose of the shopping sheet is to provide some consistency throughout colleges from across the United States,” Pizzo said.
The university can prepare a shopping sheet for any student who has completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which determines whether students are eligible for various grants, loans or work-study.
Pizzo said most students fill out a FAFSA, which will result in a “large majority” of ASU’s 72,000 students getting a shopping sheet.