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March 26, 2013

Find college loans confusing? CollegeAbacus.com may help

Some groups concerned about improving access to college brainstormed and came up with CollegeAbacus.com, a website that allows students to type in information about their financial aid awards for a clearer explanation of what their costs will be. Those with money offers from more than one school may use the website for easier comparisons. And it’s all free.

Need help demystifying college loans?

With college acceptance letters in the mail, many high school seniors also will be receiving notice of financial aid awards. These may include scholarships, work-study offers and loans, or some combination of all three.

The problem is that it’s not always immediately clear that the loans are part of what students will be required to pay back.

So some groups concerned about improving access to college brainstormed and came up with CollegeAbacus.com, a website that allows students to type in information about their financial aid awards for a clearer explanation of what their college costs will be. Those with money offers from more than one school may use the website for easier comparisons.

And it’s all free.

The federal government tried to get colleges and universities to mail out a standard form _ what it called a “shopping sheet” _ to aid recipients that made the same clear distinction between loans and scholarships, starting with the 2013-14 school year. But it wasn’t required, and as of January fewer than 10 percent of accredited schools had taken part.

Another site that can explain student loans is the Department of Education’s studentaid.ed.gov. Under “repay your loans,” there are links to calculators that may be used to figure out what the monthly payment will be when the loan comes due.

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