USA Funds® has announced the recipients of its 2012 Excellence in Debt Management Awards. USA Funds recognized the following three postsecondary institutions for their efforts to promote financial literacy and help their students minimize and manage their student loan debt:
Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C. This private, four-year university pursues a variety of activities to enhance student retention and curb student loan defaults. It conducted a survey during freshman orientation to identify students who were at risk of dropping out of school and in need of academic or social intervention. Based on the survey results, the university launched a pilot mentoring program. In conjunction with that program, the university also presented 27 financial literacy and financial aid workshops during the past academic school year to 625 students. The university also conducts face-to-face exit counseling sessions for graduating seniors to provide information about their lenders, various repayment options and information about the amount of debt that they have incurred while in school. Following graduation, Shaw University conducts aggressive communication campaigns to former students who have fallen behind in the repayment of their student loans. These efforts include contacting student loan borrowers, beginning when a former student is more than 30 days past due on a student loan payment, and conducting a monthly telephone blitz to reach borrowers whose loan payments are more than 180 days past due. As a result of these activities, Shaw University reports that its 2010 draft cohort default rate fell to 13.2 percent, down from its official 2009 rate of 22.6 percent. The award includes a $15,000 USA Funds grant to support student scholarships at Shaw University.
Monroe College, Bronx, N.Y. This independent proprietary college with campuses in the Bronx and New Rochelle, N.Y., serves a diverse student body and geographic areas that have some of the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in the country. Monroe College developed its Debt Reduction, Education, Assessment & Management project to give its graduates the skills to manage both their personal and educational finances. At the same time, the program offers students strategies for minimizing their borrowing while maximizing their earning potential. Among the activities undertaken through the DREAM project are financial literacy efforts that begin prior to a student enrolling, peer financial advising, early intervention loan counseling and education, increasing and redistributing institutional financial aid resources, supporting access to part-time jobs and paid internships, tracking of strategic indicators, and enhanced staffing of its Office of Loan Management. Monroe College continues to post student loan cohort default rates that are below the national average and also reports the highest bachelor’s degree completion rate among comparable institutions. The award includes a $10,000 USA Funds grant to support student scholarships at Monroe College.
Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y. This four-year private university in central New York state offers a comprehensive financial literacy program, I Otto Know This! Named for the school’s mascot, Otto the Orange, the program includes financial literacy grants designed to replace alternative education-loan funds to students who commit to attending financial literacy sessions each semester. The grant program has saved Syracuse University students more than $2.5 million since 2009. The university also uses USA Funds Life Skills® lessons, including the budgeting module, which is a “to-do” item on students’ financial aid online requirement checklist. More than 2,900 users have taken lessons through the program. Additional financial literacy outreach activities at Syracuse University include actively presenting on personal financial topics to campus organizations and programs, a column in the financial aid office electronic newsletter, a dedicated website, listserv and video series. The award includes a $5,000 USA Funds grant to support scholarships for Syracuse University students.
“These three colleges and universities offer creative and effective debt management programs that have produced positive results,” said Denise B. Feser, USA Funds senior vice president, School and Student Services. “These efforts help their students be more successful by reducing student loan debt and equipping students to manage their loans and other personal finance issues, while they are on campus and following graduation.”
USA Funds staff and representatives of the previous year’s debt management excellence award-winning colleges and universities selected the three award recipients, based on their programs’ measurable results, creativity, scope, staff and faculty involvement, and cost-effectiveness. Since 2004 USA Funds has presented its Excellence in Debt Management Awards annually to highlight outstanding campus debt management and financial literacy programs and to disseminate to other postsecondary institutions best practices in debt management and student loan default prevention.