In my last three posts, I’ve written about deciphering financial aid letters.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I believe colleges and universities intentionally make these documents hard to understand. If you missed the posts where I griped about this reality, here they are:
The federal government has created a model financial aid letter that would dramatically help families interpret these awards, but only about 10% of schools are using them. I explain further in this post: A Financial Aid Letter That Gets It Right.
Today I want to direct people to a new tool at College Abacus that can help frustrated parents understand what’s inside a financial aid award.
This is how I described how College Abacus works over at my college blog at CBS MoneyWatch:
College Abacus, which is a start-up created by two Rhodes Scholars, has rolled out a free online tool that allows families to essentially use the federal shopping sheet even when schools have refused to adopt it.
The tool will direct a parent to plug in any grants and scholarships that the child has received and then add the cost of the school including tuition, room/board and books. The shopping sheet will then provide the school’s net cost (after scholarships/grants are deducted).
A user can add as many schools as they want into the tool and can then use the shopping-sheet tool to compare offers from various institutions.
After you select a school, here is the model financial aid form that will appear. You will have transfer your financial aid award figures into this form:
If you use College Abacus, you should not be confused about what the award letters mean. You will have to register to use the service, but it will be worth the extra step.