New Financial Aid Comparison Shopper

April 19, 2011

By Katie Bryan, America Saves communications manager

April is the peak time when colleges send letters of acceptance. Approximately 1.5 million students will sift through 5 million letters this year. But acceptance doesn’t end the process.  Millions of American families also need to determine how to pay for school.  Unfortunately, financial aid information is often jargon-filled and unique to the institution sending it.  This can make it difficult for families to understand costs, evaluate loan options, and figure out how much debt to take on.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) launched the next phase of its Know Before You Owe student loan project by releasing a beta version of the Financial Aid Comparison Shopper, an interactive, online tool designed to help families plan for the costs of post-secondary education.

The Financial Aid Comparison Shopper is available here: www.consumerfinance.gov/payingforcollege

“Student loan debt has crossed the $1 trillion mark and tuition continues to climb,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Now more than ever, students and their families need to know before they owe. Our Financial Aid Comparison Shopper helps students make apples to apples comparisons of their offers and pick the one that works best for their financial future.”

CFPB Director Richard Cordray unveiled the tool at an event in South Dakota today with Sen. Tim Johnson, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

The beta version of the Financial Aid Comparison Shopper has more than 7,500 schools and institutions in its database, including vocational schools and community, state, and private colleges. It draws information from publicly available data provided by government statistical agencies. With the prototype, students and their families can compare the following across multiple financial aid offers:

  • Estimated monthly student loan payment after graduation;
  • Grant and scholarship offers;
  • School-specific metrics such as graduation, retention, and federal student loan default rates; and
  • Estimated debt level at graduation in relationship to the average starting salary.

The Financial Aid Comparison Shopper also includes a “Military Benefit Calculator” that can estimate education benefits for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. The calculator includes military tuition assistance and Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

To find out more about the CFPB’s work to help students and families make choices about college financing, visit: www.ConsumerFinance.gov.

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