Making the Case for Transparent Financial Aid Offers


After getting into college, students receive financial aid packages--known as award letters--to make their decisions about where to attend and what they can afford. But those letters often confuse rather than clarify costs and available aid. Why is this the case? No federal policy exists that requires standardized terminology, formatting, or even the inclusion of critical information like total cost and loan amounts on these letters. Without uniform guidelines, like federally required nutrition labels or the window sticker for car sales, the consumer is left to make a major financial decision without an apples-to-apples comparison. The lack of requirements leaves thousands of institutions communicating billions of federally funded aid dollars in hundreds of different ways.

New America partnered with uAspire, a nonprofit leader on college affordability, to analyze data from thousands of financial aid award letters. Join us for a coffee & a light breakfast to hear from the authors and field experts on how communicating college cost and financial aid to students falls short. Learn what steps can be taken to provide transparency to students and their families by institutions, state and federal government. 

Thank you to the Kresge Foundation and Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for sponsoring the research and this event. 


9:00am - Registration & Continental Breakfast 

9:30am - Welcome & Opening Remarks
Kevin Carey@kevincarey1 
Vice President Education Policy and Knowledge Management, New America

9:40am - Findings Overview

Rachel Fishman@higheredrachel 
Deputy Director for Higher Education Research, New America

10:00am - Panel Discussion with Experts: The Need For and How To Improve Financial Aid Award Letter Transparency

Tom Biedscheid, @ColostateFinaid
Director of Financial Aid, Colorado State University 

Kim Cook@NCANCook 
Executive Director, National College Access Network 

Elsa Martinez-Pimentel@uAspire 
Director of Program and Site Development, Massachusetts, uAspire 


Laura Keane@lmkeane 
Chief Policy Officer, uAspire

11:00am - Adjourn
Bob Giannino@uAspireCEO 
Chief Executive Officer, uAspire

Follow the conversation online using #TransparentAwardLetters and following @NewAmericaEd