This letter was accompanied by a packet and web links with details about scholarships, loans and costs. But many educational and consumer experts think students should not have to wade through lots of papers and websites to get the information they need to make wise decisions. They say colleges can and should provide one complete, jargon-free and easy-to-compare page with realistic cost estimates. To read about why you deserve better, how we evaluated these letters, and how you can evaluate your own letters, click here. Of course, we hope anyone making important life decisions will check with their own trusted financial and personal advisors, not just websites - not even this one!
From the University of Pittsburgh's Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, Betsy Porter:
Cost of Attendance: As a state-funded school, Pitt can't set its tuition until the state legislature determines its budget. And this year, as usual, the legislature hasn't done that yet. Pitt sends students additional material and provides weblinks to information about last year's costs, and warnings to expect an increase of about 5 to 6 percent.
Jargon and acronyms: Porter believes most Pennsylvania students would know that PHEAA stands for Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, and that the dollar amount is a grant. Accompanying notices and weblinks explain the details of the award.
- No information about costs at all, notes Mark Kantrowitz, founder of Finaid.org.
- "No explanation of what PHEAA is....Not clear if any of that is 'free'"; says Dana Rosenfeld, a former Federal Trade Commission official .
- The federal government calculated that this family could afford to pay all of Pitt's costs. But the student still received $1,200 in scholarships. So the student's need was more than met.
- When estimating how much it will cost to get a degree from this school, consider that just 46 percent of University of Pittsburgh students graduate in 4 years.