Pros and Cons of the DOE’s Financial Aid “Shopping Sheet”

The Department of Education recently rolled out a new universal financial aid sheet designed to let students compare costs of college attendance and determine how much – on average – they would repay in loans for each school.

It’s being called the standardized college “shopping sheet.” In today’s College Made Simple, we’ll review this new financial aid form… what it includes, and also what it leaves out.

– Scott

Pros and Cons of the New Department of Education Financial Aid Form: The College “Shopping Sheet”

The form begins with a school’s tuition costs, then factors grants, scholarships and other financial aid you would need to attend a school.

All that information is then calculated and potential students are presented with what their monthly payment “could” look like after they graduate.

Also listed on the right sidebar are the school’s graduation rates and the rate of which its graduates default on their loans.

Not too long after the Obama Administration rolled out this form, 10 colleges and universities agreed to use it. The largest one of them is State University of New York (SUNY), which has satellite campuses from the Lake Erie region to Long Island.

While we applaud the form for its intentions (we’re big advocates of transparency and candor), in reality it barely scratches the surface. It’s just the first step on the long journey of fully understanding the college admissions and financial aid process. Two major reasons why…

First, colleges aren’t required to adopt this form by law. For example, some private schools may feel that this stat sheet would reflect poorly on them and therefore decline making the new financial aid form available. Or they feel that there is no simple formula to truly take into account every single thing the school looks for when awarding college aid. They also may feel that they don’t want people swayed by putting an “average” number out there…. when your particular family may not fit that ‘average’ profile.

Granted, I’m sure many more colleges will likely follow SUNY’s lead and adopt the form, but it’ll also most likely be years down the road – well after many of you have made your decision on where to attend. And this form is far from enough to make your college decision for you.

So much goes into deciding what school is best. You should start with the discovery process of picking the right type of school, build the ideal school list… and then look at which schools will give you money and which ones won’t. If you pick the ‘wrong’ school, who cares if their ‘average’ graduation rate is good or their ‘average’ debt load upon graduation is favorable – it most likely won’t apply to you if you pick a school where you’re not happy, you end up taking 6 years to graduate, etc…

That leads me to reason number two: Every family’s situation is different than others. Sure, millions of households have the same income, but that doesn’t mean they have the same assets, academic abilities, athletic abilities, uniqueness of the student, etc…

Put simply, there are just far too many factors to consider when deciding what college you plan to attend. And far too many factors for a simple “shopping sheet” to truly tell you what you, specifically, can expect to pay to go to a particular school… especially a school that has more subjective aid-giving policies.

Remember, this decision is one of the biggest ones you and your student will make in your lifetime.

That’s why we highly recommend that you take us up on our offer for a free one-on-one consultation.

Our professional staff is trained to do what the Department of Education’s new financial aid ‘shopping sheet’ can’t: — factor in your family’s individual unique situation AND see if there are any ways to help your more easily navigate the college admissions and financial aid process… and send your child to the college of their dreams – regardless of the cost.

Follow this link to learn more.

To your college funding & admissions success,
Scott Weingold
Co-Founder, College Planning Network LLC
Publisher, – The free educational resource of College Planning Network

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.