In July 2012, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released the College Financing Plan (formerly known as the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet) format and asked institutions to voluntarily commit to using the College Financing Plan to supply financial aid information to students in a way that can be understood and compared easily.
Last year, the Department released both a traditional template and a Responsive Preview, with features and improvements we wanted to test and on which we sought feedback. Working with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), we have received valuable input from financial aid administrators, students, parents, and other stakeholders that we have used to make improvements to last year’s Responsive Preview in order to finalize a single template for 2020-2021. We have also reviewed the NASFAA report No Clear Winner: Consumer Testing of Financial Aid Award Letters.
As a result, we kept many of the features of the Responsive Preview, while making other improvements based on feedback. For the final 2020-2021 version, the Department:
- Changed the name of the template from Financial Aid Shopping Sheet to College Financing Plan to more accurately reflect that loans may be a significant part of the student’s investment, and to emphasize to students that they are making a significant financial transaction with long-term implications when enrolling in an institution.
- Added more transparency for students so that they know the interest rate they will pay on each loan; have more detail about need-based and merit-based scholarships and grants available; can compare on-campus and off-campus living arrangements; and are provided with a clear distinction between loans, which must be repaid, and grants and other aid that do not need to be repaid.
- Simplified the language and format, removing elements that add clutter, are unnecessarily complex, or are not seen by students to be relevant or valuable to the decisions they must make about how to finance their education.
The format of the College Financing Plan has also been updated for 2020-2021 to include additional data elements, a new responsive design, and the ability to customize the colors of the College Financing Plan to match those of your institution.
Each of the components institutions need to complete institutional College Financing Plans can be found on the following website: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/guid/aid-offer/index.html