WSU joins the College Cost Transparency Initiative

A small graduation cap sitting atop a glass jar filled with money.
After a prospective student submits their federal and state financial aid forms, WSU calculates financial aid awards based on cost of attendance and expected family income, with sources. Photo by iStock.

Washington State University is working alongside hundreds of institutions of higher education to make the cost of college clearer for prospective students.

More than 360 colleges and universities across the United States have banded together as part of the College Cost Transparency Initiative. Launched in the fall of 2022, the task force aims to help prospective students appreciate the true costs of college by making rates and fees as well as available financial aid more clear and prominent.

“Our mission as a land grant institution is to ensure that higher education remains accessible to students across the state of Washington,” Elizabeth Chilton, provost, executive vice president, said. “We believe that by being transparent about costs and prominently presenting financial aid and scholarship options, we can continue to fulfill our longstanding mission.”

WSU’s admission to the College Cost Transparency Initiative was made possible by the creation of its new Dynamic Financial Aid Offer. After a prospective student submits their federal and state financial aid forms, the university calculates financial aid awards based on cost of attendance and expected family income, with sources. Financial aid offers sent to students can include assistance ranging from grants and scholarships to federal direct student loans. 

“This Financial Aid Offer system provides greater transparency, consistency and clarity to assist students with understanding their cost-of-attendance and types of aid offered,” Joy Scourey, assistant vice president of Student Financial Services, said.

Members of the College Cost Transparency Initiative are asked to describe and explain all available aid in plain language, provide comprehensive total cost of attendance estimates, and explain terms, conditions, and information concerning the long term costs of student loan debt, among other principals. The initiative is managed by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, with financial supported from the Strada Education Foundation.

WSU has a longstanding commitment to transparency in cost of attendance, providing prospective students and their parents with a Net Price Calculator as well as a planning tool to estimate financial aid. To help families navigate upcoming changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and the Washington Application for State Financial Aid, or WASFA, WSU has prepared a website with available information.

Prioritizing financial transparency and prompting myriad avenues to financial aid is paying off for WSU students, according to Saichi Oba, vice provost for enrollment management. Approximately one in three undergraduate students who live in Washington are paying no tuition this academic year thanks to financial assistance. System-wide, 73% of undergraduates receive some form of financial assistance, and fewer than half of all resident undergraduates who graduated this year did so with college debt, with the average debt amount resting at $23,286.

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