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Cortland Makes College Comparisons Easier

 Cortland Makes College Comparisons Easier

02/25/2013 

At SUNY Cortland, graduation rates are higher, and student debt is lower than at most four-year colleges.

Prospective students and their families this fall will find it easier to evaluate the SUNY Cortland experience for themselves when the College begins using a new, standardized SUNY financial aid award letter.

SUNY Cortland today announced it would join the other 63 SUNY campuses in adopting the letter for the 2012-12 academic year. The standardization is part of the SUNY Smart Track campaign, a broader commitment to increased transparency in college financing.

“Selecting a college is one of the biggest decisions a person makes in life, and finding information for apples-to-apples comparisons is often difficult,” SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum said. “This will help reduce the confusion. SUNY Cortland welcomes an opportunity to help families make valid, fact-based decisions.”

The new letter will allow students and their families to see clearly the cost of attendance and financial aid offerings at each campus, including information such as graduation rate, median borrowing and loan default rate.

SUNY Cortland’s graduation rate, for example, is more than 67 percent. The national graduation rate for first-time students seeking a bachelor’s degree is 58 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The average indebtedness of a SUNY Cortland graduate, meanwhile, is $19,125, with a student-loan default rate of just 3.4 percent. That’s well below the national average college indebtedness of $26,600 and the national student-loan default rate of 13.4 percent.

“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 announced in September, when SUNY launched its Smart Track campaign. By launching Smart Track, SUNY, the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, adopted the concept of making college costs and financial aid information as transparent as possible. It began offering students the most proactive, comprehensive financial aid services in the country.

Most recently, in Chancellor Zimpher’s 2013 State of the University Address, she announced that SUNY Smart Track would contribute to a system-wide goal of decreasing SUNY students’ loan default rate by at least 5 percent over the next five years.

The SUNY Smart Track award letter was developed by campus financial aid directors and education experts tasked with adopting the federal Financial Aid Shopping Sheet for the SUNY system. Additionally, the campaign calls for an expansion of SUNY’s Student Loan Service Center, the early engagement of students at risk of default and the provision of improved online resources such as a net price calculator.