NASFAA President Justin Draeger recommended to the Department of Education (ED) in a public meeting Tuesday, key elements and model formats to improve award letters for students and their families.
"We believe a model or models of award letters would be very useful, but the implementation of an exact, standardized award letter would be detrimental," Draeger’s written testimony states. "Student aid award letters are not regulated. Regulation in this case would be undesirable given the vast array of institutional prerogatives and variety of student body characteristics that exist. However, modeling and some standardization would serve students well."
ED hosted the meeting to solicit help from the public and the higher education community on the best means and practices for providing the actual price of a postsecondary education program to students and their families, in accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act (2008). Award letters are used to inform students about the cost of college and financial aid awards and needs, as well as allow for cost comparison between institutions.
NASFAA contends that because each institution has varying missions, strategies, and measures for its aid packages, schools need latitude to customize their award letters. Standardization should apply primarily to definitions and terminology rather than format or organization of content. A standard terminology better allows students and families to compare costs across institutions, though the format by which those terms are enumerated may vary by institution.
For example, NASFAA recommends to ED that the following elements be included in the presentation of the award letter and in a fairly consistent location in the award letter:
At the meeting, Draeger also highlighted three NASFAA tools (included in the NASFAA Award Letter document) developed to aid institutions in the drafting of award letters. These include:
Other panelists presenting information at the meeting included David Hawkins of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid and FastWeb, Nina Marks of Collegiate Directions, Inc., and Matthew Reed of The Institute for College Access and Success.
During the second half of the meeting, attendees took part in small group discussions and reported the results of the discussions at the conclusion of the meeting.
The Office of Postsecondary Education created a website to describe the project, post sample award letters and invite public input. The deadline for sending written comments has passed, but comments can be viewed by entering ED-2011-OPE-0009 into the "Keyword" box at www.regulations.gov.
Publication Date: 9/13/2011