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Articles: Student Services

Despite jarring news headlines depicting students with six-figure debt levels, the average student borrower’s debt burden is not necessarily devastating.

Among graduates in 2011 who borrowed to pay for higher education, the average loan debt at graduation was $26,600, according to the Project on Student Debt. Only 1.5 percent of borrowers owed $100,000 or more in 2007-2008, according to an analysis by Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors Network.

When your students graduate, they're entering a whole new world of job descriptions, resumes, cover letters, networking contacts, interviews, industry jargon, and career fairs. The whole process can be overwhelming.

What's more: Few university career service centers prep their students for the most important aspect of today's job search—all things digital.

Being a financial aid administrator is an accident waiting to happen these days. The soaring costs for college have produced a soaring amount of applications for assistance, creating a constant stream of traffic at the Financial Aid Office. There are times when it resembles an all-day rush hour, with students and parents in a hurry to get in and get out with some part of the gold they’re convinced is hidden there.

The interest in financial literacy has expanded beyond the financial office, which is where Lyssa Thaden, financial education content manager at American Student Assistance, used to focus her pitches.

“Now, at a stakeholder meeting, I’ll have someone from the financial aid office but also someone from admissions and enrollment management,” says Thaden, who consults with school sponsors of SALT, ASA’s financial literacy program. “The marketing folks show up, the residence life people show up, and even alumni.”

“If you build it, they probably won’t come.” That’s Sara Wilson’s take on the launch of the typical campus financial literacy program. As financial literacy project manager at USA Funds, she knows firsthand how many students participate and what they think later as they look back.

While numerous post-graduation surveys by the company show students regret not learning more about personal finance while they were in school, they also tend not to access financial literacy information when it’s offered on a completely voluntary basis, Wilson says.

New financial literacy programs aim to reduce student default rate. (Getty Graphics via Getty Images)

A spooky cloud of crimson smoke dramatizes the dread of overwhelming student debt in “The Red,” a short movie thriller created for SALT, the American Student Assistance financial literacy program for students and alumni.

Less dramatic but noteworthy still, college students logging onto the National Endowment for Financial Education’s CashCourse can take a “Financial Realities” quiz to test their knowledge. In the opening question, they’re asked what will have the worst impact on their finances: gourmet coffee drinks, borrowing money, or spending without a plan.

By the time our UB audience reads this, the movie “Captain Phillips,” based on a true story, will be hitting the Hollywood box office. After keeping the crew of his ship safe, Phillips was held hostage on a lifeboat by Somali pirates. In interviews since, the captain reported not knowing that the ship anchored on his horizon carried US Navy SEALs—a team that would ultimately rescue him.

Since their inception after WWII, the U.S. Navy SEALs have intelligently vanquished US enemies.

Today’s students are facing higher costs, greater debt and continually changing financial aid policies, yet many don’t have a clear understanding of how their financial decisions can impact their education and their future. Institutions are beginning to respond to the need for financial literacy programs, but face a major hurdle gaining traction and commitment on campus, stemming from the fact that financial literacy does not naturally fall under any one college department’s responsibility. Instead it has many touch points of concern during a student’s college experience.

Student loan debt is topping $1 trillion, and borrowers aren’t the only ones with reason to be concerned. While higher education leaders aren’t responsible for the loans, they also have a stake in getting rising debt and default levels under control.

Megan McClean, director of policy and federal relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, says the first reason for concern about debt is simply that administrators care about students and want them to succeed.

Supporting the emotional health of students should be a priority on all campuses, and the nonprofit Jed Foundation is helping to make that happen. Colleges and universities can evaluate the care they provide with JedCampus, a program launched in May.

“Efforts should be made to promote connectedness and reduced isolation,” says John MacPhee, executive director of the program. “Mental health improves the more a student feels like a member of a community.”

College students with no loan debt are more likely to lead a richer social life that involves partying, studying less, and forming relationships that will last long after graduation, a pair of University of Indiana sociologists says.

Ivy Tech Community College (Ind.) had a classic good news-bad news problem. The good news was that interest in the 31-campus, statewide institution was burgeoning. The bad news was that budget belt-tightening was limiting the ability of staff to tend to the growing attention needed by prospective students while also responding to the needs of current students.

A few years ago, career services professionals at colleges and universities in the U.S. didn’t have much use for social media. But all that has changed. The Career Advisory Board, established by DeVry University, and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) have released a new national survey, “Career Services Use of Social Media Technologies,” about college career centers sentiment toward and usage of social media.

Two-year students typically work more hours than four-year students and may have families to provide for

When Jesica Rasmussen began looking into her university options three years ago, she had more on her mind than a typical college freshman. As the wife of an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army, Rasmussen could expect many moves in her future. She could expect deployments when her husband was away for long periods of time, leaving her alone to care for their four children. She also had to find the funds to pay for school with limited budgets and financial programs available to military spouses.