College Cost Transparency Press Release

Hundreds of Colleges and Universities Commit to Student Cost Transparency

Contact: Allie Arcese
Director of Communications, NASFAA
(202) 785-6954
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C, SEPTEMBER 26, 2023 — The College Cost Transparency Initiative (CCT) — a task force composed of the leaders of 10 higher education associations representing college presidents, financial aid offices, and admissions and school counselors — today announced that more than 360 institutions of higher education have voluntarily committed to follow a set of principles and standards that ensure transparency, clarity, and understanding around communicating student financial aid offers. Together, these institutions serve more than 3.8 million college students in the United States.

The monumental commitment comes as lawmakers, think tanks, and government entities continue to scrutinize the financial aid offers that colleges and universities present to students. The principles and standards recommended by the CCT respond to the needs of students and families in a nuanced and careful manner.

“Students and families need transparency, consistency, and clarity when colleges and universities communicate their student financial aid offers so that they are able to make informed decisions about enrolling in and affording higher education. Unfortunately, financial aid offers are often confusing and, in some cases, misleading. I welcome efforts like the College Cost Transparency Initiative’s Principles and Standards that provide clarity when communicating these offers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“The College Cost Transparency Initiative is a big step in the right direction towards making sure that students and families have the best information during the college application process. In Congress, the Education and the Workforce Committee is working to lower college costs and improve the information available to students and families with legislation like the Cost Transparency and Student Protection Act. Getting the federal student loan program in check requires action from both lawmakers and postsecondary education institutions, and I’m glad to see we’re working together towards the same goal of greater transparency,” said Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

Commitments from colleges and universities are continually sent in, and the CCT will review and approve those commitments on a rolling basis and update the list of partner institutions accordingly.

“Students and families need upfront, accurate, and clear information when making decisions about college,” said Peter McPherson, chair of the CCT task force and president emeritus of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU).  “Some standard terminology and clear requirements on what is to be included in financial aid offers is important. Colleges and universities are committing to give students and families the information they need.”

Moving forward, the College Cost Transparency Initiative will be managed by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). This work is generously sponsored by a grant from Strada Education Foundation.

“We are committed to making sure that students and families get the information they need to make informed decisions about paying for college,” said Justin Draeger, president and CEO of NASFAA. “If this project has shown us anything, it’s that this work is complex, but can be done when institutional leaders and practitioners come together to make college cost transparency a priority. We look forward to continuing to recruit more higher education institutions to the initiative.”

The principles and standards provide that financial aid offers to undergraduate students:

    • Are transparent, ensuring that costs are understandable for students and families, and include the most accurate estimate possible of a student’s costs.
    • Describe and explain all types of aid offered using standardized, plain language.
    • Prominently display critical components, such as an estimate of the student’s total cost of attendance, broken down by costs to be paid to the institution and costs paid to others; types and sources of financial aid being offered, separated into grants and scholarships, student loans, and student employment or work; an estimated net price; and more.
    • Follow U.S. Department of Education guidance with regard to referencing Parent PLUS Loans.
    • Provide information about employment requirements and information on job placement, if student employment is offered.
    • Explain the terms and conditions and information on how much student loan debt may cost over time, if federal student loans are included.

The CCT today also released a set of financial aid offer examples that meet the initiative’s principles and standards for institutions to use in developing or updating their aid offers, and a glossary of common financial aid terms and definitions.

To set up an interview, please email NASFAA Director of Communications Allie Arcese or call (202) 785-6954.

About the College Cost Transparency Initiative
In fall of 2022, the leaders of 10 higher education associations representing college presidents, financial aid offices, and admissions and school counselors announced the formation of a task force — the College Cost Transparency Initiative (CCT) — to tackle the issue of college cost transparency by improving the clarity, accuracy, and understanding of student financial aid offers by producing a set of guiding principles and minimal standards to be used when developing aid offers. The task force developed the principles and standards with broad consultation and recommendations from the higher education community.

The organizations represented on the College Cost Transparency Initiative task force are as follows: the American Council on Education (ACE), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), the National Association of System Heads (NASH), and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO).