Jamestown Community College and all other State University of New York campuses will use a standard financial aid award letter for the 2013-14 academic year as part of the SUNY Smart Track campaign, part of the State University at New York's plan to make college costs more transparent and to help reduce student debt.
"JCC recognizes there are many important considerations for families planning for college, including academic quality, a caring environment, transferability, preparing for the next steps in education and career plans, and value," said Laurie Vorp, JCC executive director of student finance and records. "The new SUNY Smart Track award letter will assist them by providing clear information about the financial aspect of their planning. As 85 percent of JCC's first-time, full-time students receive aid from federal, state or college sources, we expect this new format will be helpful to many of our students' families."
The new award letter will allow students and their families to see clearly the cost of attendance and financial aid offerings at each campus, including campus-specific information such as graduation rate, median borrowing and loan default rate. SUNY is the first and largest public system of higher education nationally to implement such a tool for students and families.
"While college students across the country are taking on more loan debt than ever before, SUNY Smart Track gives our prospective students the most comprehensive and transparent financial aid information available so that they can make informed decisions about how to pay for their college education," said Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY chancellor. "The standard award letter will allow prospective students and their families to easily compare colleges within SUNY and view a full outline of the financial commitment associated with their education."
Development of the standard financial aid award letter was first announced when SUNY launched its Smart Track campaign in September. With the launch, SUNY adopted the concept of transparency of financial aid and college costs, and the system began offering students the most proactive, comprehensive financial aid information and services in the country.
Zimpher also said SUNY Smart Track would contribute to a wider systemwide goal of decreasing the loan default rate of SUNY students by at least 5 percent over the next five years. The average indebtedness of a SUNY graduate is $22,575, which is less than the national average of $26,600. The majority of SUNY student loan borrowers repay their loans successfully.
The SUNY Smart Track award letter was developed by a committee of campus financial aid directors and others who were tasked with adopting the intent of the federal Financial Aid Shopping Sheet while creating a unique version for SUNY. Additionally, the campaign calls for an expansion of SUNY's Student Loan Service Center, early engagement of students at risk of default, and providing new and improved online resources such as a net price calculator, access to financial aid experts, and financial literacy materials.