The New Financial Aid Form and You

If you’ve ever had the pleasure (read: misfortune) of filling out a financial aid form, then you probably have seen first-hand how confusing these forms can be. While you may have spent the past four years of high school studying and preparing for ACT/SATexams, nothing could prepare you for the baffling forms required to ensure your college experience is properly paid.

The Details

This new form, called the “shopping sheet,” would be only a single page. It would provide information on available grants, scholarships, and loans. Also included would be graduation rates, average monthly loan costs after graduation, and more. At a glance, this form sounds like an accessible and informative replacement for the current model of financial aid forms. Honestly, I can’t think of a single downside. The sheet is supposed to be clear and free of confusing terms and complicated language used by most colleges. In essence, the new “shopping sheet” has been created with the student and his or her parents in mind. The way it should be in the first place. When you think about it, a comprehensive and easy-to-use form of this nature is long overdue.

What’s the Catch?

Sound too good to be true? Well, there is always a catch. Not all colleges will be using this new “shopping sheet.” Unfortunately, this form is for those colleges that choose to adopt it. As participation is voluntary, it can be expected that some schools, namely the most expensive will opt out. It’s hard to say at this point whether the new form will ultimately help students. If the Department of Education is unwilling to make this comparison sheet available at all colleges, then its doubtful that it will make a big impact on how most students search and compare prospective schools.

Who Will Use the New Form?

Smaller schools, with lower costs will be much more likely to adopt this form as they stand to gain the most from the easy comparisons students can make. Now more than ever, the price of education is being questioned by students. There is no doubt that a degree in higher education can lead to increased income, but how many years of debt are you willing to take on? “Outstanding student loans have surpassed the trillion-dollar mark, and defaulted student loans total more than $8 billion,” according to the Los Angeles Times. In the end, students looking for affordable education should theoretically gain access to this form if their schools comply.

Too Good to Be True

Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan proclaimed that “the overwhelming majority, if not all universities will do the right thing.” While I want to believe him, it’s hard to expect the majority of colleges to spend time and money transitioning to a new form if they aren’t forced to by law. Frankly, the beginning of college is already hectic enough without worrying about how much aid you’re getting or how much you’ll borrow. Hopefully, congress will pass a bill that will require the use of these forms in the future, but for now don’t hold your breath. Check with the financial advisors at your prospective schools to see if they are planning on adopting the form or already have switched to it.

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Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals is a senior at DePaul University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. Outside of class, Ryan can be found working in the Pysch Lab or at a local health clinic. When he's not distracted by cat videos, he tries to balance his time between playing guitar, writing prose, and running around the soccer field.