Last week I blogged about the confusion engendered by many colleges and universities when they send students details of their financial aid packages along with their acceptance letters. The terms and conditions spelled out are often opaque and sometimes deceptive. “If Congress doesn’t act,” I suggested, “the Commonwealth of Virginia could require a standardized letter for all state institutions.”
It turns out that Virginia is moving in that very direction. Beverly Covington, SCHEV’s legislative liaison, informs me that the General Assembly has instructed SCHEV in its budget language to review their financial-aid award letters.
“During this review,” reads the budget, “the Council shall identify opportunities for improvement as well as best practices for … clarity and completeness of the information provided on gift aid as well as students’ responsibility regarding student loans or work study.”
SCHEV will develop policies to make the following information available to the student: (1) a breakdown of the components of the institution’s cost of attendance, designating billable charges; (2) a clear identification of each award, indicating the type of aid; (3) the use of standardized terminology consistent with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators; and (4) whether awards are condition and what the criteria are for renewal.
The Council shall report findings to the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees by Dec. 1, 2018.
Also, notes Covington, the General Assembly authorized SCHEV to create an office of the student loan ombudsman. The Council is currently working to fill the position.
Bacon’s bottom line: Needless to say, this is all very positive. Higher-ed institutions need to provide students the information they need to make informed choices. I’m delighted to see Virginia taking the lead in consumer transparency.
The cost of attendance at Virginia institutions of higher education is still way too high, and there is no substitute for bringing soaring tuition, fees, room, and board under control. But at least students will have a clearer idea now of the financial commitments they are making. We should see fewer young people finding themselves over their heads financially, dropping out, and floundering in thousands of dollars in debt they can never repay.There are currently no comments highlighted.