Where's my money?

Student's see changes in financial aid

By Hannah Lentz | 1/8/14 6:56pm

On Dec. 13, the U.S. Department of Education released an update on the financial aid “Shopping Sheet.” The document, developed by the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, provides an easy way for students to understand the amount and type of financial aid they can receive. It also allows students to compare aid packages offered by different institutions.

“The Shopping Sheet helps prospective students navigate the often daunting process of selecting and paying for higher education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a recent press release. “Providing students and families with clear, easy-to-compare information about college costs is an important part of the administration’s efforts to improve college access and affordability.”

Almost 2,000 institutions in the U.S. have committed to using the Shopping Sheet, including Central Michigan University, Michigan State University, and Grand Valley State University.

After the sheet’s initial launch in July 2012, the department received feedback from students and financial aid administrators and used their suggestions to revamp the form. These changes, which include language updates to improve clarity and a glossary to help explain financial aid terms, will be effective in the 2014-15 school year.

Among the changes to be communicated is an adjustment of the marital status requirements for financial aid. The Department of Education will now recognize same sex marriages if the student or parent was legally married by any jurisdiction that recognizes the marriage, regardless of where the student or couple lives or attends school. Students will now have the same benefits as those who have listed a “traditional marriage” on their FAFSA form.

“We must continue to ensure that every single American is treated equally in the eyes of the law, and this important guidance for students is another step foreword in that effort,” Duncan said. “As students fill out their FAFSA this coming year, I’m thrilled they will be able to do so in a way that is more fair and just.”

Though the form’s main purpose is to provide information on financial aid details, it also provides information about educational institutions. It compares elements such as graduation rates, borrowing rates and financial aid opportunities.

College students will also see new federal regulations regarding subsidized and unsubsidized loan eligibility. Now students will only be allowed a maximum loan per year rather than per semester. This change will affect students who choose to attend school for 12 months and are anticipating loan support for the spring/summer semester.

“We want to give students as much time as possible to plan ahead for the spring/summer semester,” said GVSU Director of Financial Aid Michelle Rhodes. “We also want to make sure that students understand the alternative funding options.”

The staff members of GVSU’s Financial Aid Office recommend that students contact them to review their loan eligibility. Thus far the office has responded to more than 1,000 inquiries.

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