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Financial Aid Professionals Call for Reporting Changes

New recommendations from a task force representing financial aid professionals on college campuses call for streamlined reporting requirements, at the same time advocating tracking of individual student outcomes to give consumers better information as they make college choices.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Consumer Information Task Force released a report August 6 outlining 15 ways it thinks regulations should be changed to eliminate administrative burdens on colleges, while providing the prospective students with useful information in the college search.

"The number of disclosures students receive from their institutions is overwhelming," said NASFAA's President and CEO Justin Draeger in a press release. "Today's disclosures aren't just unhelpful, they may actually hinder students from deciphering what is truly important when making college-going and financial aid decisions. Implementing the task force's recommendations at the federal level would greatly improve information for students."

For instance, postsecondary institutions now must disseminate information on financial aid, cost of attendance, student diversity, and other details in an annual notice to all enrolled college students. NASFAA suggests this is a duplication of what is posted on the College Navigator. Instead, the task force recommends students be given a link to the website, maintained by the National Center for Education statistics, as a single source of standardized information for prospective students.

Other required reporting on campus security, fire safety, and drug and alcohol prevention should be studied, NASFAA says, to determine its usefulness. The report suggests the U.S. Department of Education would be better positioned to provide information on loan-related consumer information and debt management and NASFAA would also like to eliminate exit counseling on student loan repayment.

While many of the NASFAA recommendations reflect a desire to pull back on reporting requirements, the task force calls for a repeal of federal law that prohibits the tracking of student unit records. Now reporting is based on aggregated information for only first-time, full-time students. NASFAA notes that looking at individual student patterns would provide more precise and comprehensive data on contemporary student behavior.

"As higher education policy is increasingly focused on student success, completion, and outcomes, including the recent negotiations over gainful employment regulations, it becomes increasingly critical to have robust data that gives an accurate picture," the report says.

Any new requirements, the report concludes, should be subject to consumer testing before being rolled out.

NASFAA officials say they plan to use the task force's recommendations when approaching lawmakers about potential changes in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

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