Higher-Ed Groups Create Task Force to Clarify College Costs

The Paying for College Transparency Initiative, which includes several higher-education associations, hopes to have uniform standards around financial disclosures prepared by spring. 

Last week, a group of higher-education associations announced the creation of a task force that aims to increase clarity around college costs and financial aid. 

The Paying for College Transparency Initiative, announced Nov. 29, is spearheaded by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), but also includes representatives from groups serving admissions counselors, community and state colleges, higher-education executive officers, and more. 

NASFAA president Justin Draeger says the task force is designed to help students get a better picture of college costs in an environment when most have to find funding from a variety of sources—scholarships, grants, loans, and more.

“The entire system inherently has a lot of complexity,” Draeger said. “What we’re trying to tackle is, how do we deliver all that information, which can be immense and overwhelming to students, in a way that’s clear and concise and helps them compare the costs of different colleges?”

The entire system inherently has a lot of complexity.

Justin Draeger, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators

Draeger said he began discussing the idea of a task force last summer with Peter McPherson, president emeritus of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and other participating associations were soon brought in. McPherson now serves as chair of the task force.

The task force is taking on a subject that’s been a challenge in the past. Efforts by the U.S. Department of Education to have colleges adopt uniform standards around financial disclosures have been only moderately successful, and attempts at passing national legislation have stalled in Congress. Draeger says he believes that a group convening the main stakeholders around college education can help create a more successful concept. 

“We recognized that if we were really going to generate community adoption of common standards and principles, we needed a lot more involvement from other offices on campus, including college presidents,” he said. “Our hope is that we can come together on common principles, standards, and terminology and still leave enough room for schools to innovate around how they communicate and interact with their students.”

Draeger says the task force’s current goal is to have an iteration of those standards created by the spring. The task force can work fast, he says, because of the shared interest in clarity, and thanks to experts it’s recruited to assist. “We’ve involved subject-matter experts who can dive into the weeds and help us pull out the most pertinent points that will be considered by the task force,” he said. 

NASFAA has done some modest staff reshuffling to help manage the task force, Draeger said, and it is also looking for grant support and additional funding sources. 

“It is a very large group, and it can be hard to ensure that such a large group is all moving in the same direction,” Draeger said. “The payoff, though, is big.” 

(MonthiraYodtiwong/iStock/Getty Images)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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