College Cost “Window Stickers”

How do you reduce the growing mountain of student loan debt?

Stop subsidizing higher education? End the notion that ‘any degree’ is better than ‘no degree’? Teach kids that paying off $12,000 in loans isn’t a cakewalk? No, no, let’s just tell them again how much it costs and hope they make the best of it.

The DOE has developed a nationally standardized financial award letter, the “Shopping Sheet”, that is supposed to help students better understand the costs of attending college, and compare the costs across different schools. This voluntary approach would have colleges adopt a uniform scheme of presenting the costs of attending their school.

Apparently, the problem is the “lack of uniformity in how schools provide [cost] information,” which confuses students who can’t make proper comparisons between schools. The future of this country can’t add up a few numbers and compare the results. Forget the artificially low interest rates sustained by federal aid, eerily similar to how the housing bubble started. That’s beside the point.

Sure, there are times when costs are obscured by confusing terms, fine print and ‘legalese’ – ever read your credit card agreement?

That doesn’t seem to be the case with college award letters, which very clearly present the costs per semester and/or year. Instead of trying to standardize where it isn’t needed, the DOE should focus on the real reasons that students take on so much debt – easy access to federally backed low interest loans – instead of sidestepping the issue.

Yevgeniy Feyman

Yevgeniy Feyman is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute

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