When you’re a high school student with plans of going to college, nothing is more exciting than getting an acceptance letter. And nothing can quell excitement more quickly than concerns about how to pay for college. The main options are scholarships, grants, and student loans. Scholarships and grants are free money, but they take a lot more work and there’s no guarantee you’ll get any.

Student loans, on the other hand, are easy. Sign up, get money and pay it all back later. At face value, it sounds great, but there’s more to it than that.

A major complaint about student loans is that students don’t know what they’re getting into when they agree to take them on. In fact, graduates often feel buyer’s remorse; according to a survey by Citizens’ Bank, 36 percent of respondents would not have gone to college if they had known how much it would cost them overall.

Oregon is addressing that concern through a bill that requires all schools that accept federal financial aid to communicate with students each year about their loans in an easy-to-understand way.

Student Loan Information via Email
Student loan information delivered through email.

Students will receive the following student loan information (all accurate as of the date of the notification):

  • Amount of loans received
  • Amount of tuition and fees paid to institution
  • Estimate of total payoff amount (principal and interest) of all loans received
  • Estimate of monthly payment, including interest
  • Amount remaining of each federal loan type

Students will receive no information about private loans or credit card debt.

The bill even specifies that the student loan information must be given in a “unified and comprehensive manner” and “be written in plain language that is easy to understand.” With the relevant information that students understand, the hope is that students will make appropriate decisions.

The bill only applies to students currently enrolled in an Oregonian college. Some people argue that graduates need more information, especially regarding options for repayment. Coughlin, the director of the Citizen’s Bank survey, said that about $400 billion of the total $1.3 trillion of national student loan debt is refinanceable. However, one-third of graduates don’t know refinancing is an option.

While refinancing may not be the best option for everyone, the options should be communicated to all borrowers, just as Oregon colleges now have to communicate loan details throughout college. This is an important step that will hopefully lead to more transparent lending practices to students who don’t know how loans work.