TRENTON – A bill sponsored by state Senators Barbara Buono and Sandra Bolden Cunningham that would provide prospective college students and their parents with a better understanding of the costs and debt they will inherit in order for them to make more informed college-choice decisions was approved today by the Senate Higher Education Committee.
“The college financial aid process can be a confusing one with each college and university providing the student with different information and in a different format. Students and their parents end up comparing apples to oranges when trying to decide where to go to school,” said Buono (D-Middlesex.) “With a standardized form that allows financial aid to clearly and consistently be compared from school to school, students and their parents will be empowered to take control of their financial aid and make smarter decisions.”
The bill, S-2187, would require New Jersey four-year public and independent colleges to provide each prospective student with a standardized financial aid “shopping sheet” including information on the costs, loan options and estimated debt they will incur as part of their financial aid offer. The “shopping sheet” would be required at minimum to include:
The total cost for one year of attendance at the school, including tuition, student fees, room and board, books and materials, transportation and other personal expenses;
The total amount of grants and scholarships awarded to the students;
The total amount the student would owe to the school for one year of attendance, taking into account all grants and scholarships;
The total amount per year of student loans and work study funds the student is eligible for, broken down by federal student loans, federal work study funds, and private student loans;
The total amount the student will owe for one year of attendance at the college or university compared to the average cost per year at other four-year public institutions in New Jersey, and to the average cost per year at independent institutions; and
The estimated monthly student loan payment after graduation.
New Jersey’s colleges and universities would also be required to include the school’s graduation rates, reenrollment rates, and the percentage of students who defaulted on their loans on the “Shopping Sheet.”
“Students who are applying to multiple colleges across the state are tasked with determining which is the best fit for their future,” said Cunningham, D-Hudson, and Chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “In this day and age, financial affordability must be a major factor in that decision-making process. The financial aid ‘Shopping Sheet’ will help prospective college students and their parents make an informed decision in regards to the overall cost of higher education.”
The bill would require the state Secretary of Higher Education to provide a model format for the “shopping sheet,” so that prospective students and parents could easily compare costs and financial aid packages between schools. The Secretary of Higher Education would be directed to consider the sample “Shopping Sheet” unveiled by the Obama Administration in July 2012.
As of October, over 500 institutions across the country have adopted the federal “Shopping Sheet” for the 2013-2014 school year including New Jersey City University, Everest Institute-South Plainfield and the University of Phoenix-Jersey City Campus.
The bill was approved by the Senate Higher Education Committee with a vote of 4-0. It now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.
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