If Santa and Mrs. Claus were parents of a college-bound student, the list they would check would be the federal Department of Education’s (ED) Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. The Shopping Sheet was previously referred to as “Know Before You Owe” and the “Model Financial Aid Offer Form.” It is a consumer tool to help prospective students and their parents make informed decisions about which college to attend by considering their costs and financial aid.
The first Shopping Sheet was unveiled for use during the 2013-2014 school year by the Obama Administration. On Dec. 13, 2013, ED released the 2014-2015 edition of the Shopping Sheet. “As of December 2013, over 1,950 institutions have voluntarily adopted the Shopping Sheet, representing institutions nationwide from all sectors of higher education,” according to ED.
Student debt is at an all-time high and the marketplace increasingly values higher education. Finding affordable higher education has never been more important for future success.
Here are 10 ways the Claus and other families may use the Shopping Sheet:
- Sample form Parents and students may get familiar with the info in the sample 2014'-15 Shopping Sheet here and the lingo based on last year’s form here.
- Uniformity Users may cost compare “apples to apples” because colleges adopting the Shopping Sheet may not modify it but can provide supplemental information using a box at the bottom of the form (see #5).
- Participating schools Parents and students may see the regularly updated list of schools that have adopted the Shopping Sheet here for comparisons.
- Award Letter Admitted students may receive the Shopping Sheet with or in place of their financial aid award letter according to college policy.
- Cost comparisons Students and parents may use each college’s Shopping Sheet to easily compare costs and financial aid, payment options, loan information and graduation rates.
- Undergraduates and Graduates The Shopping Sheet is for undergraduate and graduate student use prior to enrollment.
- FAFSA connection Schools that adopt the Shopping Sheet must provide it to students who complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
- Debt warning The Shopping Sheet may help families understand their expected financial obligations before accepting them.
- Loan options Colleges that adopt the Shopping Sheet are expected to evaluate the student's financial circumstances and provide a recommended loan amount, even if it is zero. This may differ from the amount a student is eligible to receive.
- ROI Students and parents may use the Shopping Sheet info to review college costs in connection with future earnings and monthly loan repayments to evaluate the return on educational investment.
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