SUNY LAUNCHES "SMART TRACK" FINANCIAL AID AWARD LETTER

2/20/2013

Standardized Statewide Award Letter Will Outline Cost of Attendance and Provide Institutional Information

ALBANY, N.Y. – The State University of New York today announced that each of the system’s 64 campuses will use a standardized Financial Aid Award Letter for the 2013-14 academic year, as part of the SUNY Smart Track campaign, SUNY’s broader commitment to transparency in college financing.

The new 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.

For SUNY Orange students and their families, the standardized letter will help them more easily compare award letters from various colleges so the families are able to make informed decisions in regards to the actual cost of college to them. SUNY Orange will be sending its first 2013-14 financial aid award letters to students in mid- to late-March. It will continue to use the federal shopping sheet template until the SUNY award letter template is deemed ready for implementation, which is expected in late March or April.

“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 SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “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.

More recently, in the 2013 State of the University Address, Chancellor Zimpher announced that SUNY Smart Track would contribute to a wider system-wide goal of decreasing the loan default rate of SUNY students by at least five percent over the next five years. The average indebtedness of a SUNY graduate is $22,575, well below the national average of $26,600. The vast 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, chats with financial aid experts, and financial literacy materials.

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Mike Albright
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