Department of Education Releases Template for New College Financing Plan


The US Department of Education recently released its 2020-21 College Financing Plan template, formerly known as the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. The College Financing Plan is a standardized form used by participating institutions to notify students about their financial aid package. The department relied on input from financial aid administrators, students, parents, and other stakeholders to develop the new template.

Among the changes are:

  1. A new name: Formerly known as the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, the template was renamed the College Financing Plan “to more accurately reflect that loans may be a significant part of the student’s investment, and to emphasize to students that they are making a significant financial transaction with long-term implications when enrolling in an institution,” according to department officials.
  2. Increased transparency: The new template provides students with more information about loan interest rates, available need-based and merit-based scholarships and grants, and on- and off-campus housing costs. The College Financing Plan also provides a clear distinction between loans and grants.
  3. A formatting face-lift: Improvements to the language and format of the new template were made, including “removing elements that add clutter, are unnecessarily complex, or are not seen by students to be relevant or valuable to the decisions they must make about how to finance their education.” The new design also allows institutions to customize the colors of the College Financing Plan and includes additional data elements.

Additional resources, including HTML specifications and a technical guide, are available from the department. NACAC also has a number of resources intended to help students and families understand how to finance college.

Julie Kirk is NACAC’s government relations manager. She can be reached at

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