Carol Buchli was a financial aid administrator in the ’80s and ’90s, when national student loan default rates skyrocketed and her own institution’s borrowers were struggling with repayment as never before.
It was at this time that she developed a passion for student loan default prevention that continues to this day. Since 2001 Buchli has worked for USA Funds® as a consultant who helps schools plan and implement initiatives to help students successfully repay their student loans.
“Working in financial aid, it bothered me a lot to see students just borrowing money and getting to the end of their programs and not understanding their responsibilities for repayment,” Buchli says.
So Buchli decided to do something about the default problem at her school. She began to incorporate financial literacy education throughout students’ academic careers. She made it a point to speak at length with borrowers not only about their student loan balances, but also about what type of monthly payment they’d be facing when they began repayment.
And she began outreach with borrowers after they left school, sending letters to those who were in their grace period and making phone calls to those who got behind in their payments.
“It was unusual back then,” Buchli says of those efforts, which she now lists among the best practices in preventing default when she speaks with schools. “But I didn’t want students leaving school and having big debt they couldn’t repay. And schools face those same issues now.”
Buchli’s efforts helped lower her institution’s default rates to single digits.
That result is the type of success she now enjoys seeing her schools achieve, she says. Based in Missouri, Buchli works with schools in six states — from as far west as Hawaii to as far east as South Carolina — to determine their default prevention needs and how best to address them.
“It’s about asking a lot of questions,” Buchli says, “finding out where the school is in its default prevention, what it wants to achieve, and the time and resources it has for doing so.
“The goal is for the school to take steps that will have an impact on its students. Ultimately it’s about helping students to be successful and achieve what they went to school to achieve.”
An Iowa native, Buchli received an undergraduate degree from Iowa State University and a master’s degree from the University of Iowa. She holds an Accredited Financial Counselor designation with the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education.