BOSTON – A pair of state representatives used their own experiences Tuesday to pitch a bill they said would help prospective college students better understand the financial implications of their decisions.
Reps. Andy Vargas, D-Haverhill, and Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, asked the Higher Education Committee to support a Vargas bill (H 1247) that would require colleges and universities in Massachusetts to provide uniform financial aid "shopping sheets" to accepted students, breaking down attendance costs, scholarships and grants, other payment options such as loans and work study, and estimated family contributions.
"Putting massive financial decisions, possibly the biggest financial decision in someone's life before buying a home, on a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old, that is a massive burden for them to take on, especially if they don't have strong guidance from home on how to go through it," Fernandes said.
Fernandes said he ended up having to transfer from the first college he attended after a year when it became clear he and his family couldn't afford it. He said he ended up graduating from a smaller state school, without debt, and would have made different decisions at the time if he had the financial knowledge he has now.
Vargas said that when he was applying to college, he initially thought he received more aid from a public school than from Boston University, where he ended up going. After digging into the numbers, he realized the public financial aid information included loans he would have to repay, while the private university's offer was made up of grants and merit-based aid.
"This will make it easier to compare the true cost of different schools," Vargas said.
The shopping sheet proposed in the bill was developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the majority of schools in Massachusetts already use it, Vargas said. He said the Trump administration is piloting a different sheet now, and the state should codify the current version in case changes are made.
In each of the past two sessions, similar financial aid information bills died in the House Ways and Means Committee after passing the Senate unanimously.
Sen. Eric Lesser filed the Senate version of the bill (S 754) this session.