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New Tools Help Families Find Private Student Loans, Estimate Financial Aid

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Thanks in part to federal legislation passed in 2008, students will soon have access to a new set of online tools that can help them determine how well they can afford the college of their choice. Additionally, these tools can help students calculate their estimated financial aid package, the cost of their student loans, the need for private student loans, and where to find private student loan providers.


Helping Students Shop for the Best Private Student Loans

Colleges in 12 states have joined forces with Overture Technologies to create an online search tool for locating private student loans. Private colleges in Alabama, California, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee developed the Student Loan Marketplace website as a way to help students locate college loans and compare student loan costs without having to submit multiple loan applications that may lower their credit score.

When students apply for multiple private student loans as they comparison shop for the best student loan deal, each loan application is a “ding” on their credit report, since each application is counted as a credit inquiry in response to the student’s request to receive credit. Multiple requests to receive credit within a short timeframe could substantially drop a student’s credit score in the immediate term.

Currently, the Student Loan Marketplace works with about 10 student loan companies that issue private student loans. In addition, the site provides more general information on student loans, including the federal student loan application process, lists of resources that provide national student loan data, links to the College Board, links to the Department of Education, and links to student loan information and advocacy projects.

Estimating Financial Aid to Calculate the Cost of College

The College Board is also getting into the act with its recently announced new tool called the Net Price Calculator. Like the Student Loan Marketplace, the goal of the Net Price Calculator is to make the cost of college loans more transparent to students and their families. The Net Price Calculator makes quick calculations that estimate a family’s eligibility for federal financial aid — federal student loans and grants — and assesses the need for other financial resources like scholarships, savings, and private student loans before a student applies for admission to a particular institution.

By enabling students to compare the overall cost of college and see how government grants and student loans are likely to be awarded, the College Board is opening the door for students and their families to make more informed decisions about which colleges and universities they can afford, given their unique financial situations. Families can also better assess the need for supplemental financial assistance like scholarships and private student loans.

The Net Price Calculator is an online tool hosted by the College Board but can be integrated into the websites of participating colleges and universities. Currently, about 20 pilot institutions are testing the calculator and providing final feedback. The College Board expects its Net Price Calculator to be fully available to interested schools by October, ahead of the 2011–12 application period for student loans and financial aid.

The Net Price Calculator requires the student to enter some family financial data, which is kept confidential. The system then makes calculations based on the College Board’s Institutional Need Analysis System, a standard measure for estimating financial aid. The tool also takes into account financial aid award practices that are unique to each participating school. Institutions that subscribe to the service can also customize the calculator to offer custom messages and additional information about school programs, campus tours, and application requirements.

The Net Price Calculator was developed in part to meet the requirements of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008, which requires colleges and universities to provide prospective applicants with tools that combine actual institutional costs with student and family financial data to estimate the “true” cost of attendance. Higher education institutions are required to comply with the provisions of the HEOA by October 29, 2011.


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college loans, College Board Net Price CalculatorScience Articles, Higher Education Opportunity Act

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Jeff Mictabor is an enthusiast on the topic of student loan issues in the news. He has been writing for the past 10 years for a variety of education publications. He now offers his writing services on a freelance basis.


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