On January 16, 2019, the Education Department announced that it is introducing a new template for colleges and universities to use to disclose financial aid information to prospective and current students. The College Financing Plan, which was previously named the Financial Shopping Sheet, is intended to be more user friendly to both institutions and students.
The nation’s student loan debt has skyrocketed to nearly $1.5 trillion, and some borrowers may have benefited from a clearer explanation of the costs and options for affording those costs. The College Financing Plan attempts to set forth in a clearer format the various components of college financing that students should carefully examine before committing to student loans.
Specifically, the College Financing Plan provides the student’s estimated family contribution and the student’s cost of attendance for the particular college or university. It then totals the amount of scholarships, need-based grants, and employer-paid tuition benefits that the student will receive in order to show the student the net cost. Only then does it show the options for affording those costs, which include work options, loan options (federal, private, institution), and other benefits such as tax credits.
The College Financing Plan template will be used in 2019-2020 as part of a beta testing protocol, and it will be updated in 2020-2021 to include additional data elements, a new design, and customizable colors. In the meantime, the Department hopes institutions review the changes and provide feedback to assist the Department in the rollout of the 2020-2021 College Financing Plan. Institutions can submit comments or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 1, 2019.
Jonathan A. Vogel, a former deputy general counsel with the U.S. Department of Education and a former federal prosecutor, is the managing attorney of Vogel Law Firm PLLC, an education law firm focused on legal issues that arise in K-12, higher education, and student loans.