By Vicky Keller, USA Funds Consultant
Student loan default prevention should be a campus-wide endeavor, and efforts to begin this all-encompassing approach should start at the top.
But getting the support of your institution’s leadership and others may take some work. When I help schools with default prevention, I suggest that they lay out the importance of stopping student loan default by using the “Triple-A” approach with administrators and other groups across campus.
Here are those “A’s” and how to put them to work to change the culture at your school:
Historically school personnel have seen default prevention as an issue of the financial aid office alone. But it’s important that campus officials understand that default prevention actually is the responsibility of the entire school. Help them with that understanding by educating them about the institution-wide impact of the cohort default rate.
Recently I met with a group of faculty and staff at a campus that was experiencing an increase in its cohort default rate. I let them know that more than 80 percent of that institution’s funding came from federal Title IV programs — and that this Title IV funding could be in jeopardy if their cohort default rate continued to rise. I challenged them to imagine if that funding no longer were available.
That explanation helped faculty and staff to understand the seriousness of the situation facing their school. Being clear about the implications of a high cohort default rate can help administrators, faculty and staff to see the importance of default prevention at your school as well.
The cohort default rate is a measurement of how well a school manages its federal financial aid programs, so each school is held accountable for its rate. Most financial aid offices alone do not have the capacity to effectively and consistently provide students with the breadth of default prevention and debt management information necessary to keep those all-important default rates low.
So, once you have school administrators on board, ask that they lead the way in spreading the word about the importance of default prevention. Again, challenging everyone on campus to consider the consequences of student loan default can help in encouraging them to step up to the plate.
For example, when your faculty think of their former students who later defaulted on their loans, do they think they could have done more in the classroom to prevent those students from defaulting? Would those faculty members be willing to offer extra class credit to those who take part in financial literacy and student success training?
There are many default prevention tactics that your school can include in its current processes. But you also need a broad strategy, and that should begin with the formation of a default prevention task force and creation of a debt management plan — regardless of whether the U.S. Department of Education requires those actions from your institution.
Include representatives from a variety of areas on your task force, including student leaders and information technology staff. Build in ways to analyze trends in your school’s student loan data that can inform your default prevention planning.
And don’t forget one of the most crucial parts of implementing a default prevention plan: tracking those efforts to lower your cohort default rate. Too often schools believe that if they have a default prevention plan in place, that alone will reduce their default rates. But there is a difference between simply having a default prevention plan and actually conducting cohort management activities that are data-driven and measurable.
If you need default prevention assistance, contact USA Funds®.