UNC joined a select group of the nation’s colleges and universities in a commitment to financial aid transparency this week.
Chancellor Holden Thorp represented UNC Tuesday at the White House, where Vice President Joe Biden and other members of the Obama administration discussed how higher education institutions can provide students with clear and consistent information about the financial commitment associated with student loans.
Thorp said it was not a big deal for UNC to sign on to the plan because it already provides students with comprehensive financial aid information.
“We want to make sure students get the best information they can and that they understand it,” Thorp said.
To meet the federal government’s new financial aid recommendations, UNC will add estimated monthly payments on student loans and the rate at which graduates repay their student loans — without defaulting — in its financial aid award letters.
According to a White House press release, more college students than ever are depending on loans to pay for college. Two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients rack up an average $26,000 in student loan debt.
Thorp said a major part of Tuesday’s discussion focused on how universities can provide students with financial aid information clearly but without overwhelming them.
“It involves a lot more one-on-one contact,” he said. “All of us (university administrators) spent a good bit of time explaining that there’s a lot of human interaction involved in the process.”
Phillip Asbury, UNC’s deputy director for scholarships and student aid, said the White House discussion is important because many colleges and universities in the U.S. don’t provide students with enough information to make informed financial decisions.
“Part of the push with folks who are developing this is so new students can take a standard notice to compare each school to the next,” Asbury said. “It should be easy for a student to look at something from UNC and compare it to the University of Virginia.”
He said UNC is more affordable in comparison to its peer institutions, so it doesn’t make University officials nervous to provide students with the recommended information.
Representatives from schools and school systems, such as Arizona State University and the State University System of New York, joined UNC in the commitment to financial aid transparency.
Harold Martin, chancellor for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University was also at the White House Tuesday.
But Joni Worthington, spokeswoman for the UNC system, said she wasn’t sure whether or not other schools in the system would institute the government’s recommendations at this time.
Thorp said the event was intended to send a message to other universities to develop more consistent language for financial aid information.
“There’s always worry that there are people who can go to college free but don’t know that because the information is so confusing,” Thorp said.
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