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Helping students decide wisely

Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst join in bipartisan effort

Going to college can be an expensive undertaking. One of the most important decisions prospective college students and their parents must confront is just how much debt they are willing to face when their studies are complete.

Iowa’s two United States senators — Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst — have partnered with U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, of Minnesota, to introduce three complementary bills the enactment of which would provide college students and their families improved information about what their educational pursuits will cost both in the near future and long-term.

The two Iowa Republicans and the Democrat from Minnesota seek to build a bipartisan coalition that enables these measures to become law. Their goal is to make it possible for students to learn about the financial realities of college before unmanageable debt is incurred.

Many young Americans are incurring huge debt commitments during their college years. According to information provided by the three senators, Iowa ranks ninth in the nation in the debt its college graduates incur. On average, they owe $29,859 when they collect their degree.

“A college education generally remains a good investment. But students are flying blind when it comes to making one of the most expensive decisions of their lives,” Grassley said. “It’s almost impossible for students to compare college costs until they have applied and received their financial aid award. And when the financial aid offer they receive from one school differs from another school, students have a very hard time determining which school is the most economical choice. Students often face hardships after graduation because they borrowed more from the federal government than they can afford to repay with the degree they earned. These bills would help take the mystery out of college costs and ensure that students know what they’re getting themselves into before they get in over their heads.”

Here are the three bills and what their enactment would accomplish:

• The Net Price Calculator Improvement Act would improve the effectiveness of and access to net price calculators, the tools that provide students with early, individualized estimates of higher education costs and financial aid figures before they decide where to apply.

• The Understanding the True Cost of College Act would create a universal financial aid award letter so that students could easily compare financial aid packages between schools.

• The Know Before You Owe Federal Student Loan Act would strengthen the current loan counseling requirements for institutions of higher education in the Higher Education Act by making the counseling an annual requirement before new loans are disbursed.

The Daily Freeman-Journal­­ applauds the senators for working together to make important financial choices easier for college-bound young folks. We hope their joint endeavor will inspire others in the nation’s capital to seek ways to achieve bipartisan solutions to our nation’s many problems.

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