Confusion On College Costs

Most colleges will soon send out financial aid award letters for the upcoming academic year, informing admitted students (as well as those already enrolled) about how much they are expected to pay. In recent years, those letters have prompted a flurry of complaints that they are too confusing and sometimes misleading, and the Education Department, consumer advocates and some members of Congress have pushed for greater standardization.

A study of proposed templates for financial aid letters released today suggests that students and parents want information that’s clear and easy to understand — but they’re not particularly thrilled with any of the options available so far.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators tested three “shopping sheets” — the Education Department’s version, the association’s own suggestion and a hybrid shopping sheet that combined the two — on several small focus groups of high school and college students, and parents of students, from across sectors of higher education.

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