University to use financial aid shopping sheet

GW will adopt a federal tool to help students compare their financial aid packages across institutions, responding to pressure from higher education organizations and government agencies.

After initially expressing reservations about the financial aid “shopping sheet,” which has been adopted by more than 600 universities over the last year, Associate Vice President for Financial Assistance Dan Small said his office is pinpointing a timeline for implementation.

Small said he feared at first that the online comparison, which includes information such as a school’s total price tag, available financial aid and average indebtedness, might confuse prospective students and their families by presenting too much information without explanation.

“I thought that the uniqueness of GW was not conducive to the shopping sheet,” Small said. “We’re going to adopt it. There’s no doubt that we will.”

Because financial aid offers have already been mailed out to prospective freshmen, the form likely would not be used in full until next year.

The Student Association endorsed the shopping sheet in December with a resolution sponsored by Sen. Omeed Firouzi, CCAS, who lobbied the University’s financial aid office to adopt the comparison tool. He called the decision to adopt the document “extremely positive” for students.

Small said GW would use the shopping sheet partially as a result of external pressure from higher education and aid organizations, the Department of Education and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The University is striving to meet the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “principles of excellence” criteria. The shopping sheet is one of these benchmarks, Small said.

GW’s software vendor for financial aid data also announced upgrades this week that will allow institutions to at least send a paper copy of the shopping sheet to students.

“This is something we’re going to be working with external relations to say, ‘OK, how can it be presented in the right way that meets the guidelines, but also delivers the right message,’ ” Small said.

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