The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is a consumer-facing tool that provides information about the cost of attending college. Designed to simplify information about a student’s financial aid package, the standardized form helps to ensure that students make informed decisions about choice of schools, funding for that school, and the cost of loan repayment. First released by the Department of Education in 2013, the Shopping Sheet is now voluntarily used by nearly 3,000 institutions nationwide.
Is your school on board? Amy Glynn, our VP of Financial Aid and Community, says it’s an effective way for your FinAid Office to speak to students.
The financial aid process is overwhelming for many students and parents. There are almost as many schools of thought on how to fix this issue as there are, well, schools. Some think more information is better. Others believe that keeping it simple is the best approach.
At CampusLogic, we prefer the latter.
Shopping Sheets Translate Math-as-a-Foreign-Language into Financial Literacy
The current format of the Department of Education’s Shopping Sheet is, indeed, a very simple and straightforward way of presenting cost and aid information to students.
Shopping Sheets remove the need for students to figure out what the school is actually saying about the cost of attendance. No complex calculations are needed to determine what funding options are available and how much they will cover. It offers a top-down approach in which cost as a total is presented first, followed by line-item breakouts for grants and scholarships, net price (cost minus grants and scholarships), loans, and other funding options.
While this all seems obvious to many of us, the idea of calculating net cost is something many students struggle with. It can be challenging even to identify the correct figures to use—should it be per-semester, or per-year, and which other numbers do they use?
Certainly, the student wins whenever financial information is translated into straight-forward language that’s easily understood. And the school ultimately wins when clear, concise information is part of your overall communications plan throughout the financial aid lifecycle—keeping students engaged, and your institution top of mind.
How Do You Stack Up?
The statistics offered on the right rail of the CFPB Shopping Sheet help students compare institutions and clearly see graduation rates, loan default rates, median borrowing, and average repayments.
Though not perfect factors to determine how successful a school is, these four data points allow a student to quickly determine if more research about an institution is needed—due to a high or low reported metric. It also is one of the few times when data is reported to a student from a consistent source, allowing for more accurate comparisons.
Each school using the Shopping Sheet conforms to the same template. No matter what school produces the Shopping Sheet, it will have the same sections and line items with institution statics being calculated consistently. This allows a student to truly make apples-to-apples comparisons across institutions—something that can be very difficult to do when comparing two award letters that look like they’re written in two different languages.