Calderon Bill Requiring Adoption of Uniform Financial Aid Letter Passes Higher Education Committee

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

SACRAMENTO, CA – Assembly Bill 1858, a measure authored by Majority Leader Ian Calderon that requires all higher education institutions in California to adopt the U.S. Department of Education Financial Aid Shopping Sheet when communicating financial aid packages to students, passed the Assembly Higher Education Committee today.

“Students need a uniform financial aid letter to ensure their decision to attend a college is based on easily comparable, transparent and accurate information,” stated Majority Leader Calderon. “Currently, higher education institutions are not required to provide this information in a user-friendly format. Students and their families spend time attempting to understand and compare financial aid, a confusing process that could lead to deceitfully structured award letters that hide the true cost of completing a degree program.”

A recent study by The Institute for College Access and Success examining 150 award letters created by colleges and universities, found 66% deceivingly grouped aid a student paid back with aid a student did not have to pay back. Additionally, 22%, of the award letters highlighted a “remaining cost” figure that understated college costs by using direct costs rather than the total cost of attendance, or overstating aid availability by adding loans and/or work-study together with grants and scholarships. These tactics can mislead students about the affordability of that college and make it more difficult to compare award letters.

The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is a consumer tool designed by the U.S. Department of Education that higher education institutions use to notify students about their financial aid package. This standardized form simplifies the financial aid and cost of attendance information prospective students receive, allowing them to easily compare institutions and make informed decisions about where to attend school. The Shopping Sheet includes information about each college’s estimated cost of attendance, as well as the median borrowing, repayment and graduation rates. Additionally, it details each student’s personalized information on net cost to attend each college or university, their grants and scholarships, and other available options to pay for college including work study and loans.

The Shopping Sheet became available for use beginning in the 2013-2014 award year. As of July 2017, over 3,249 institutions, including 288 California institutions, have voluntarily adopted the Shopping Sheet. All CSU and UC campuses have adopted the Shopping Sheet to inform prospective students of their potential financial responsibility.

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (562) 692-5858