Officials target college financial aid letters

“The first financial adviser that a student runs into is a financial aid officer at the college,” said Anthony Ogorek, a financial adviser in Williamsville, N.Y. “Students needs to understand that these officers don’t have a fiduciary responsibility to them.”

Families have also been conditioned to believe that a college education is an investment that will pay for itself, Ogorek said. As a result students often take on huge debt loads without questioning whether it makes sense financially.

With many graduates now struggling to find work, the risk of taking on so much debt is becoming all too clear.

And unlike other types of debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy; borrowers who fail to pay can have their wages garnished.

The plan to simplify financial aid forms is modeled after the approach that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took in revamping mortgage disclosures.

Earlier this year, the agency began its “Know Before You Owe” project to simplify the paperwork borrowers receive when applying for a mortgage. Critics say improved disclosures could have helped prevent many of the past problems surrounding the subprime mortgage crisis.

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