The College of William and Mary is one of three Virginia universities called out by a U.S. Congressman as providing prospective students with misleading language about a fee associated with filing a financial aid form.
U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., wrote to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Monday to cite 111 colleges across the country he felt were less than up-front about fees associated with filing the College Board's "CSS Profile" form. Those colleges require students to submit the form alongside the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Cummings said those institutions may be in violation of federal law by requiring that form in order to receive federal aid.
William and Mary, Washington and Lee University, and the University of Richmond were on his list.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the College Board's CSS Profile website suggests there is a fee by saying a valid credit card is needed to complete the application, but does not make it clear what filers must pay. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the Profile fee is $25 to submit it to one college and $16 per college thereafter.
Also as of Wednesday afternoon, William and Mary's financial aid website said that "freshman and transfer applicants also need to complete" the CSS Profile form in addition to the FAFSA, but does not say there is a fee to submit the Profile form.
Henry Broaddus, William and Mary's dean of admissions, said in a statement Wednesday that school officials would review the language on its website to make sure it is clear.
"We are certainly sensitive to the cost involved with the submission of the CSS Profile, and we support need-based fee waivers for families where the additional cost would create an undo burden," Broaddus said. "Furthermore, we would never deny federal aid to anyone submitting only a FAFSA, but it is in the best interest of any student with financial need to submit both."
The CSS Profile asks more specific questions, including the value of the applicant's home and how much money is owed on it. That information helps colleges determine which students have a greater need for financial aid.
Cummings' letter followed a Democratic Committee staff investigation. Prestigious schools such as Harvard and Yale are on the list, too.
"These institutions appear to be establishing additional requirements for students to complete costly additional forms... to be considered for any financial aid," Cummings wrote. "Congress banned this practice in 1992 because it creates undue hurdles for students seeking federal student aid."
Sampson can be reached at 757-345-2345.