The House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training hosted an April 24 hearing focused on enhancing transparency in higher education.
Witnesses called to testify on “Keeping College Within Reach: Enhancing Transparency for Students, Families and Taxpayers” included:
Despite an abundance of college data on the Internet, prospective students and their parents need more specific information and guidance early on to navigate their options for paying for college, experts testified at Wednesday’s hearing. High school guidance counselors, the experts agreed, are key to helping low-income students into and through the college process.
According to Hurd—whose organization, the National College Advising Corps, trains recent college graduates to serve as supplemental guidance counselors in select low-income high schools and provide pre-college information— low-income students, who make up just three percent of enrollees at the 146 most selective colleges and universities in the United States, are often misinformed about college costs.
Hurd praised new tools, including net price calculators, the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, and new websites such as the College Board’s Big Future and the Chronicle of Higher Education’s College Reality Check, which attempt to offer “apples to apples” comparisons of college costs. However, many prospective students are still deterred by high sticker prices and misunderstandings of basic financial terms, including grants and loans, Hurd noted.
“My most heartbreaking example is a family who did not want to take out a loan due to pride, refused their government-backed aid, and instead put tuition on a credit card with a 15 percent interest rate, not realizing a credit card is a loan,” Hurd testified.
To increase financial literacy and the likelihood of applying to college, Hurd said students should begin to receive information in middle school. Then, from ninth through twelfth grade, students should follow a timeline with instructions on when to start looking for scholarships, when to file a FAFSA, and more. Though this information is available online, prospective students and parents may not be accessing it.
“We’re grappling with a problem that has been perplexing us for a very long time,” Subcommittee Chairman John Kline (D-Minn.) added. “We always talk about what information should go on these websites… [but] if you don’t even know they’re there, it doesn’t help very much.”
Publication Date: 4/25/2013