Website helps in-state students understand costs, financial aid


Using simplified infographics and jargon-free language, a newly launched affordability portal makes it easier for prospective in-state students and their families to understand the true costs and benefits of attending the University of Michigan.

The “You Can Go Blue!” portal features myth-busting about the cost of college, information on the return on investment of a U-M degree, and examples of family profiles in various income ranges and what their student might receive in a financial aid package.

“We are confident that this information will help families better assess their options and understand why the University of Michigan offers one of the best financial opportunities for Michigan residents,” says Ted Spencer, associate vice provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions.

One section tackles the misperception by some students that U-M is financially out of reach. In fact, the institution is the only public university in the state and one of a handful in the country to cover 100 percent of demonstrated financial need of students from Michigan. About 70 percent of students from the state receive financial aid. The portal also provides a cost comparison chart to other schools in the state, so prospective students can see for themselves how U-M aid stacks up.

“This initiative explains how affordable U-M is and answers some key questions for Michigan students as they begin their college journey,” says Provost Martha E. Pollack. “During this academic year, for example, there has been no cost increase for a typical resident U-M undergraduate who has financial need. For many other resident students, costs have decreased significantly. It is important for families to understand that we are committed to helping them.”

The new portal is one result of a yearlong collaborative effort including the office for the Vice President for Global Communications, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Financial Aid and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. The team spent time reviewing best practices around the country, as well as the latest research on reaching students, particularly low-income, high-achieving students because that group tends not to apply to top-tier schools at the same rates as higher-income students.

“Explaining the cost and value of college is a complicated message, and one institutions nationally have struggled to communicate in a way that helps students and families make educated decisions,” says Lisa Rudgers, vice president for global communications.  “But if we don’t communicate well, we risk missing out on students who would enrich our campus and be enriched by it.”

In addition to the portal, other pieces of the initiative included simplified aid and grant package information, improved brochures and outreach to students, and targeted communications to guidance counselors. Enhancements to the portal — including video student testimonials and a simplified cost-of-attendance calculator — are planned in the coming months.

Related initiatives tie into this effort. A revamped U-M financial aid award notice was introduced for fall 2013. It better explains financial aid packages, reflects the amount of U-M gift aid and federal grants a student will receive and suggests other resources for families when planning for college. In 2014, the Office of Financial Aid will explore additional online tools to offer prospective families a better estimate of what financial aid they can expect to receive from U-M.


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