College can be the best four years of your life. But for middle class college students like myself, we’re constantly reminded of the hefty price tag we’ll owe in repayment of loans after graduation. In addition, too often students and families aren’t clear on the total costs at a particular school or how they might compare to other universities.
Consequently, choosing a school that is both high quality and affordable is hard to do, particularly when tuition rates continue to climb annually. And each year students are confronted with the uncomfortable decision to take on student loans, many with steep interest rates that keep you in tens of thousands of dollars of debt once you graduate.
I don’t want to scare you away from attending a quality college or university, but the reality of it is, taking on student loans comes with a great responsibility — the commitment of repayment after graduation.
Some college students around the country understand the obligation they’ve signed up for and can easily repay student loans, while others are expressing worry and contempt in letters to the President.
The Obama Administration has responded.
On July 24, they introduced the final version of the “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet“ – an individualized standard financial aid letter that will help students understand their costs before making the final decision on where to enroll. The shopping sheet will allow students to easily compare aid packages offered by different institutions.
To develop the Shopping Sheet, the U.S. Department of Education partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new independent agency established in the wake of the financial crisis.
Oftentimes, schools provide financial award packages that are complicated and ?confusing, lacking clear distinctions between grants and loans, as well as information about post-graduate outcomes associated with the institution.
The “Shopping Sheet” provides a simple layout students and families can use to manage and organize specific college costs. The goal of the project is to help everyone who is contributing to paying for an education to fully understand the price, how you?ll have to go about repayment of loans, and how those costs compare to other universities.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that schools are welcoming the shopping sheet with enthusiasm. Ten schools, including my school Syracuse University, have pledged to adopt the form.
Personally, I think the worksheet is a great way to lay out all of your college costs right in front of you. It’ll help you choose a school that best suits you and your family’s budget.