Tracey Thomas was mortified when, during a webcast, a USA Funds® consultant told her she’d contact Thomas directly to discuss financial literacy education.
But Consultant Carole Ann Simpson’s reaching out to Thomas turned out to be a key step in Thomas’ work to enhance financial literacy and default prevention at her school, College of the Redwoods.
Today Thomas relies on USA Funds tools and solutions ranging from debt management consultations, to USA Funds Life Skills®, to USA Funds Borrower ConnectTM.
Then only a few months into her role as College of the Redwoods’ financial literacy advising specialist, Thomas was on a quest to engross herself in all things financial literacy in February 2012. Not only was she new to her job, she was new to financial aid. She felt unprepared when, at that time, she learned during a webcast about USA Funds Life Skills that Simpson would be contacting her.
“But USA Funds has given me the framework for providing financial literacy and default prevention services for our multi-campus district,” Thomas says.
USA Funds Life Skills
Simpson provided Thomas with additional information about USA Funds Life Skills, and Thomas tried out the online financial literacy and student success program herself.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, this really lends itself to assessing student learning outcomes and program outcomes,’” Thomas says. “It can provide an indication of what students know.”
And so College of the Redwoods — a Eureka, Calif., based community college — began offering USA Funds Life Skills to first-time student loan borrowers. The program has effectively taught students money management and student success skills, with an average course assessment score of just under 90 percent.
Just as important to Thomas, she says, is that monitoring students’ learning outcomes and lesson preferences has helped to guide her financial literacy planning.
USA Funds Life Skills is an online program that equips institutions to teach students to manage their time and money wisely while on campus and after graduation.
In the fall College of the Redwoods will begin including information about accessing financial literacy resources, including USA Funds Life Skills, in letters the school sends to all students accepted for admission.
Thomas says the intent is to also reach students who don’t borrow to pay for school but could still benefit from money management training. And she will continue to cull information about student lesson preferences and performance to guide the college’s default prevention planning.
USA Funds Borrower Connect
College of the Redwoods recently began using USA Funds Borrower Connect, sending information about repayment in letters and emails to borrowers who were more than 60 days delinquent on student loan payments.
“I had students calling me because they received their letters,” Thomas says, “and it mattered to those students that they received something from the college. They could talk to someone who could help reassure them about making contact with their federal loan servicers.”
USA Funds Borrower Connect is a Web-based tool that automates borrower communication through telephone, letter and email campaigns, using loan information schools upload from their various loan servicers.
Thomas also plans to turn to USA Funds Borrower Connect to help with the college’s default prevention planning. The tool’s ability to export borrower, loan and communication history data will help her learn more about borrowers who are most at risk of defaulting.
“I know USA Funds Borrower Connect will provide us information about students who have left College of the Redwoods that USA Funds Life Skills tells us about students who still are here,” Thomas says.
Default prevention plan
USA Funds’ Simpson also shared best practices for developing a school default prevention plan. Thomas has included the use of USA Funds Life Skills and USA Funds Borrower Connect in the plan, as well as practices such as frequent contact with borrowers.
Now when student-borrowers drop classes, for example, Thomas reaches out to them prior to their next semester of enrollment, to help them understand the financial and academic consequences of withdrawing.
Thomas hopes College of the Redwoods will have its default prevention plan completed by September.
“I’m just very thankful that USA Funds is working with us on our plan. USA Funds is helping us improve our skills and knowledge so we can better help our students,” Thomas says. “It’s a relationship that has been exceptionally valuable.”
To learn more about USA Funds’ default prevention tools and solutions, contact USA Funds.