The Obama administration is pushing hard this week to keep the spotlight on its efforts to make college more affordable. On Tuesday, administration officials met with 10 college presidents who have agreed to include a consumer-friendly “shopping sheet” in the financial aid packages they send to incoming students.
Although the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed such a form in January, only Congress could make it mandatory. But at a round-table Tuesday led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the presidents of some of the nation’s largest institutions, representing 1.4 million students — among them, Arizona State University, Miami Dade College, and the state university systems of New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and Texas — volunteered to provide the information, starting with the 2013-14 school year.
The sheet would simplify the current process of comparing colleges. It would clearly state the cost of a year of classes, the student’s net cost after grants and scholarships, financial aid options to pay that cost and estimated monthly payments for federal loans. It would also provide information about the colleges’ retention and graduation rates and the share of graduates who default on their student loans. “These aren’t standards,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at a briefing on Tuesday afternoon after the college presidents’ meeting.
“This is basic transparency.”