A change to the way SUNY awards financial aid could make the process of weighing college costs more transparent for prospective students in the upcoming 2013-14 academic year.
SUNY announced Feb. 20 that all of its 64 campuses will implement a standard financial aid award letter to simplify financial costs and aid offerings.
According to state officials, the letter will include campus-specific information detailing the cost of attendance and financial aid options at each SUNY school. In addition to the financial statistics of each school, the new award letter will also feature information regarding graduation rates, median borrowing, total grants and scholarships offered, estimated costs after grants and scholarships, federal loans and work study.
“Currently award letters from various institutions may not include all the information available to students in the SUNY Smart Track award letter,” said David Doyle, director of communications for SUNY. “The award letter will enable students to compare costs easily and inform them of their options for funding their education.”
The standard financial aid award letter will be the newest addition to the SUNY Smart Track campaign, an effort to clarify the costs for college and decrease student debt. SUNY students average $22,575 in debt by the time they graduate, below the national average of $26,600.
“While college students across the country are taking on more loan debt than ever before, SUNY Smart Track gives our prospective students the most comprehensive and transparent financial aid information available so that they can make informed decisions about how to pay for their college education,” Doyle said.
SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher announced in the 2013 State of the University Address that SUNY Smart Track would contribute to the overall goal of reducing the loan default rate of SUNY students by at least 5 percent over the next five years.
SUNY will be the first and largest public system of higher education to offer the standard financial award letter to its students and families, Doyle said.
According to Doyle, the award letter was developed by a committee of campus financial aid directors with the purpose of creating a federal Financial Aid Shopping Sheet unique for SUNY.
Juliana Girard, a junior majoring in sociology, said that she wished she had access a similar letter when deciding on colleges.
“Having that comparison would’ve been awesome to help me gauge the numbers,” she said.