Sen. Franken Fights to Ensure Minnesotans Know Exact Cost of College
Continues Push to Bring Clarity to Financial Aid Process
WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/21/12] -During a Senate Judiciary hearing on the student debt crisis, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) reiterated the need for a universal financial aid form so that students and families in Minnesota will know exactly how much college is going to cost them.
"When families go to the grocery store, everything they buy has standardized nutritional information on the package, so they know exactly what they are consuming," said Sen. Franken after yesterday's hearing. "Knowing exactly how much college is going to cost should be as simple as knowing how many calories there are in a slice of bread. Right now, families aren't always educated about their options. With student debt at an all time high, families need a standardized sheet explaining students' financial aid options so they know exactly how much college is going to cost them and what loan options are available to them."
A universal financial aid form would also help students decipher the loans they are eligible for. Federal student loans have more protections for borrowers - including better interest rates than most private student loans, income-sensitive repayment options, in-school deferment, and discharge of federal loans in certain cases. There is a cap on the amount of federal student loans students can take out and students may take out private loans to cover the difference. However, in some cases students are unaware they can take out federal student loans and resort to private student loans instead. A recent report from the Project on Student Debt found that "52% of private loan borrowers in 2007-08 borrowed less than they could have in federal Stafford loans." A universal financial aid form would clarify the amount of federal loans students are eligible for so that they are able to minimize the private student loans they take out.
Sen. Franken has been a longtime advocate for a universal aid form. During a college affordability hearing this February, Sen. Franken promised to work with the administration on the universal financial aid form they proposed. And last August, Sen. Franken sent a letter to the Department of Education requesting that it speed up its process for developing the form.