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Grassley, Franken re-introduce bills to help students understand cost of college

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota today re-introduced two bills that would give students and their families better information about the costs of college. The bills continue the senators’ long-time collaboration to help college students avoid sticker shock and insurmountable debt.

“College sticker prices don’t mean much. That means students are flying blind when making one of the most expensive commitments in their lives,” Grassley said. “It’s almost impossible for students to compare college costs until they have applied and received their financial aid award letter. Even then, the financial aid award letter they receive from one school might be a lot different than one from another school. As a result, students have a very hard time determining which school is the most economical choice. Our legislation would help take the mystery out of college costs. Also, the more information available, the more there will be price competition to help keep tuition costs down.”

Franken said, “Minnesota students and families are finding it more and more difficult to pay for college, and that’s why I’m working so hard on this issue. Part of the problem is that students often don’t have a clear picture of how much their education is going to actually cost them, and often don’t fully understand what schools they can and cannot afford. Our bipartisan bills will increase the transparency of college costs and provide students and families with a better estimate of what they will need to earn, borrow, or save to attend the best school for them.”

The Net Price Calculator Improvement Act would improve the effectiveness of and access to net price calculators, the tools that provide students with early, individualized estimates of higher education costs and financial aid figures before they decide where to apply. The bill would require schools to put their calculators on webpages where students and families are likely to look for cost and admissions information. The Net Price Calculator Improvement Act also would authorize the Department of Education to develop a “universal calculator” that lets students answer a standard set of financial and academic questions to get cost estimates from many schools so they could better compare costs across institutions.

The Understanding the True Cost of College Act would create a universal financial aid award letter so that students easily could compare financial aid packages between schools. It would clarify what financial aid families will receive from a school and create standard terms for the aid offered so that students could accurately compare offers from different schools. Right now, schools do not use standard definitions or names for different types of aid, so students and families often report having difficulty figuring out the differences between grant aid — which does not need to be repaid — and student loans, which do need to be repaid.

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