Financial realities of attending college

FRESNO, Calif.

Classes are just a few weeks away at Fresno State, but students are already lining up at the financial aid office.

"I don't know anything about loans. Me and my parents are trying to figure it out and it's not working," said Elizabeth Garcia, a Fresno State student.

Junior Elizabeth Garcia waited two hours Tuesday to get her questions answered and to make sure her registration fees had been paid for by Friday's deadline. She says the financial aid process can be overwhelming.

Now the federal government is hoping to give students like Garcia more answers with a new "shopping sheet." The one page document will give students all the costs associated with their college of choice and what grants they could receive and what loan options are on the table.

"We would welcome the President Obama shopping sheet because it allows them to make an informed decision about their loan acceptance. It's also something we already do. Students get information on their loan when they receive their financial aid award," said Dr. Paul Oliaro, Fresno State V.P. Student Affairs.

Additionally, the shopping sheet would provide details like the percentage of students that graduate and what they pay per month on their loans after college.

"I think it would help me know more of when to pay and how long it is going to take because that is one of our questions," Garcia said about the new form.

Fresno State student Noe Cruz adds, "sometimes they give us so many papers, it gets confusing. So if they just put it on one hard copy paper it would be so much more helpful."

More than 60 percent of students receive financial aid at Fresno State and university officials say it's important to arm them with knowledge and not more debt.

"Many of the students in this region, in particular, come from low-income families, first generation, so the loans and financial aid is important to allow them to attend college and complete their degree," Dr. Oliaro said.

Colleges and universities are not required to use the sheet, but U.S. Education Secretary is strongly urging all to do so.

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