Joe Biden leads national financial aid transparency conference
Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden and other national leaders met with 10 colleges and universities who made a commitment to provide understandable financial data about their higher education investments.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray joined Press Secretary Jay Carney to call on all college and university presidents to make the commitment.
According to the financial protection bureau’s semi-annual report, total outstanding student loan debt is estimated at $865 billion. Over the past decade, total student loan borrowing has increased 57 percent per full-time enrolled students.
“The financial process was hard to understand because I didn’t get a breakdown of what everything was going to cost,” said Michelle Gutierrez, incoming freshmen at CSUN. “I didn’t have a lot of information going into it. I just received the amount I had to pay.”
The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the financial protection bureau, gathered input from students, families and higher education communities to develop a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.
The shopping sheet is a model of what a good financial aid award letter would look like. It can be used by colleges and universities for prospective students to understand the type and amount of aid they qualify for.
“We want students to find the information they need easily,” said Stephanie Thara, web communications specialist of the CSU chancellor’s office. “We designed our websites so that you have specific web pages to find all the information and costs that they need.”
The California State University has already provided college costs and value data when they created the College Portrait of Undergraduate Education. College portrait is a voluntary effort by public 4-year institutions of higher education to provide greater accountability through accessible, transparent, and comparable information.
In addition, the CSU created Contributions to the Public Good page which includes information on student loan indebtedness and default rates as well as average salaries for CSU degree recipients.
“For 2010 -2011, more than $3.1 billion was distributed in financial aid to nearly 290,000 students, which is 70 percent of the CSU’s total student population,” said Thara.
Financial aid transparency provides students and their families clear and useful information needed to decide which institution will best suit their educational and financial goals in higher education.
“Luckily I didn’t take out any loans during my five years at CSUN,” said Marie Bueta, recent CSUN graduate. “But I had a lot of friends who did and they were always telling me how much they dreaded having to pay it all back after graduation.”