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'Shopping Sheet' Gives New Jersey College Students a True Financial Loan Picture
10/11/2021 |
Mary Ann Koruth |

Starting this fall, students of all New Jersey public and private colleges will receive, by law, a one-stop listing of their costs, estimated debt and loan options in a financial aid higher education "shopping sheet."

The shopping sheet has been available to prospective students since 2019, when Gov. Phil Murphysigned into law a bill that requires state higher education institutions to provide the information to all prospective students. From this year on, the sheets must be made available to all enrolled students in addition to incoming freshmen. Students can expect to see a broad overview of what they will owe annually in their accounts for each year they are in school.

Democratic state Sen. Shirley Turner championed the bills in the Legislature. She said theidea for the shopping sheets grewfrom seeing "sticker shock" on the faces of graduating college students.

"I’ve had so many conversations with students who were alarmed and shocked to see how much their degrees had cost them," Turner said. "They are unsuspecting of the impact of these loans, so they end up moving back in with their parents because they aren’t making enough money to pay back their loans."

The shopping sheet, she said, “allows them to see if what they are paying for — the degree — is worth the money they are putting in.”

Turner has introduced another bill in the Legislature that she said “truly provides transparency.” She said it would require colleges to survey their students a year after they graduate to find out if they are employed, full or part time, and how many are working in their major field of study. Colleges would have to furnish this information on their website. It would also require colleges to ask students their salary ranges and offer projections of their incomes. That bill, S1217, is being reviewed by lawmakers.

It was difficult to get this bill heard by lawmakers because many colleges do not want to be responsible for collecting this kind of information from students, she said.

Sixty-four percent of New Jersey college graduates had student loan debt in 2018-19, according to California-based think tank The Institute of College Access and Success. With an average debt load of $33,566 that year, New Jerseyranked seventh-highest in the nation. About 30% of the loans were private, which are less regulated, making them more costly.

College tuitions increase by 8% on average every year, far outpacing inflation, shows Finaid, a public service website that offers financial aid information. 

Rutgers University and Montclair State University said they are providing shopping sheets. Montclair said enrolled students have been receiving this information for two years, since the 2019 legislation kicked in requiring shopping sheets for prospective students.

The shopping sheet is designed to allow students and families to easily compare financial aid packages from different institutions.

Last October, the state designated a student loan ombudsman, Raghu Kakumanu, to help borrowers with information about their student loans, explain loan agreements and assist borrowers when there is a dispute. The state also announced that businesses that offer students loans would have to go through a licensing process to regulate their activities and protect students, under a 2019 law.

Students with loan difficulties can call 1-800-446-7467 or go online to to complete a Banking Formal Complaint form. 

The measures, said Nicole Kirgan, a spokesperson for the state’s Office of Higher Education, are part of the Murphy administration’s initiatives to support college transparency and affordability.

There have been similar efforts on the national level. The bipartisan College Transparency Act was reintroduced in the Senate in March after a version of it failed to pass the House last year.

NJ Financial Aid Shopping Sheet AY24-25 template – Associate’s Degree

NJ Financial Aid Shopping Sheet AY24-25 template – Bachelor’s Degree