Report: Good Information about College Costs Can Boost Access

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Low-income students are only one-eighth as likely as their wealthier peers to graduate from college.

This statistic, from a 2015 report by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, is the product of a variety of factors. But one of the biggest driving forces is a lack of information.

So how can colleges and universities clarify financial information to help reduce barriers to higher education for low-income students?

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has a few ideas.

  • Give students a full projection of the cost of college. Many letters tell students that tuition can rise from year to year, but don’t include an estimate of what that might look like over four years. A solid projection can help ease the sticker shock.
  • Estimate non-tuition costs to help give students a full and accurate picture of the total costs they will face. Right now, these costs either come as a surprise or are too ill-defined to factor into the decision-making process.
  • Consider clarifying financial aid letters. Explain the difference between loans that require repayment, grants, and scholarships.
  • Policies surrounding financial aid eligibility need to be spelled out clearly and communicated to all students. Reminders about the types of actions that could cost a student their financial aid, such as poor grades, would be helpful to send out periodically.
  • Colleges and universities should offer educational tools on financial aid for students, encouraging them to make informed choices as they review their offers.

Read more ways colleges and universities can reduce barriers to higher education at Education Week.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at adobson@nacacnet.org.

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