College’s True Cost (Opinion)

Ann McClure's picture

The Obama administration is rightly pressing colleges to bring clarity to the often misleading and unintelligible financial aid letters that many send out to newly admitted students. The White House’s announcement that 10 colleges and state university systems have agreed to create user-friendly financial aid letters is encouraging, but more will obviously need to be done.

Many colleges actually hide the real expense of an education by issuing financial aid letters that blur the distinction between grants and loans to make the school look more affordable.

The colleges and universities that have committed to transparency — including the State University System of New York, the university system of Maryland, the University of Texas System and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — have a combined enrollment of 1.4 million students.

They will provide students admitted for the 2013-14 school year a clear document that shows: how much a year of college will cost; options for paying those costs, including clear differentiation between grants and loans; estimated monthly payments for federal student loans that the student will likely owe upon graduation; and student graduation rates.

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