Financial Aid Offers: Action Needed to Improve Information on College Costs and Student Aid

What GAO Found

Most colleges are not following most effective methods for giving obvious and conventional data in their money assist offers. According to GAO’s evaluate of money support provides from a nationally representative sample of colleges, practically two-thirds of colleges comply with 50 % or fewer of the 10 most effective techniques. No college or university in GAO’s sample adopted all 10. For illustration, in accordance to most effective tactics, a higher education need to estimate the internet price—how substantially a scholar will want to pay out to show up at that college—by deducting only grants and scholarships from all important expenditures (e.g., tuition, charges, housing and foods, books, and dwelling expenditures). Nevertheless, GAO identified that an approximated 91 % of colleges do not include things like or understate the net cost in their help offers (see figure).

An believed 41 % of faculties do not incorporate a internet price. This may perhaps leave college students guessing how considerably they will need to fork out.

An approximated 50 percent of faculties understate the internet cost. Many faculties exclude vital costs and issue in loans that must be repaid. Performing this can make a school show up a lot less highly-priced than it is.

Believed Extent Colleges Observe Greatest Exercise to Notify Students How Substantially They Will Require to Fork out (the Internet Cost) in Financial Support Delivers

Notice: Estimates in this figure have margins of mistake of additionally or minus 7 share factors or fewer.

Federal regulation does not call for schools to contain apparent or common facts in the economical aid features they supply all college students. Instruction has instead inspired faculties to comply with ideal practices, but adoption has been restricted. Faculties current expense and economic assist information in another way, making it hard for pupils and parents to examine delivers and higher education affordability. Though a modern legislation calls for faculties to offer regular money help information to certain student veterans, the lack of economical support give necessities could direct other college students to make uninformed and highly-priced choices, these types of as enrolling in an unaffordable university. Even more congressional motion would be vital to be certain that all students acquire the info they require in their economic support delivers to make informed schooling and economic selections.

Why GAO Did This Examine

The Section of Instruction disbursed approximately $112 billion in financial assist to students by several grant and bank loan programs in fiscal yr 2021. Faculties commonly give college students information about the support for which they are qualified in economical aid provides. Students use these gives to make essential choices, which includes which college to go to and how to finance their education.

GAO was asked to review the details in college fiscal help offers. This report examines the extent to which colleges are (1) subsequent most effective methods to supply obvious and standard information about faculty expenditures and scholar help in their economic help offers, and (2) expected to give this information and facts to enable learners make educated fiscal conclusions.

GAO gathered monetary aid offers from a nationally representative sample of 176 faculties and assessed them towards 10 very best practices from the Department of Education and a fee comprised of 22 federal organizations. GAO also reviewed appropriate federal legislation and restrictions and interviewed experienced federal officials, researchers, representatives of university student advocacy teams, and university economical aid administrators.