One more reason the student-loan problem is such a mess: The letters that college students receive spelling out financial aid often leaves them confused or flat-out misled about whether the money is coming from scholarships, grants, or loans, reports ProPublica. Schools also tend to push easy-to-get "Parent Plus" loans from the feds in the letters, without regard to whether a family can afford it. They often factor in big sums of money from these loans to make the aid match the yearly tuition to the dollar.
It looks neat and tidy on the letters, but one St. John's student complains that hers "made it seem like they gave me a lot of money." A counselor helped her realize "it was more loans in the financial-aid package than scholarship money." The Education Department this year created a standard award letter to make things easier to understand—but does not require its use. Meanwhile, a bill sponsored by Al Franken in the Senate would make such a standardized form mandatory. Read ProPublica's full piece, which includes examples of financial aid letters, here. (Read more student loans stories.)