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A holistic approach to student success increases financial literacy, reduces debt

Sullivan University leverages two Student Connections solutions to help students make sound financial decisions in and out of school
University Business, December 2018

A Kentucky university saw Cohort Default Rates plummet and financial literacy improve almost immediately after implementing two programs that take different, but related, approaches to student success.

At the end of 2013, the three colleges that now make up Sullivan University in Louisville had Cohort Default Rates of about 25 percent each. At the end of the 2018 school year—five years after partnering with Student Connections to implement Borrower Connect—these same schools had default rates from 13.5 percent to 15.4 percent.

“Cohort year 2014 was actually even lower,” says Bobbie Mohamed, Default Prevention Specialist for The Sullivan University System. “We’re balancing ourselves out right now.”

Students also receive financial education through Student Connections’ WhichWay application as part of the university’s Quality Enhancement Program, QEP Coordinator Angela Riggs says.

‘Very hands-on’

In addition to contacting students with delinquent accounts, Student Connections uses Borrower Connect to reach out during the loan repayment grace period to offer support and assistance with deferments and payment plans, Mohamed says.

“They are very hands-on,” Mohamed says. “They communicate with our students, and also make sure we are doing OK and have everything we need. They let us know what calls they’ve made, how many accounts they’ve cured. Everything is working wonderfully.”

Riggs says Student Connections’ two-step approach toward financial security helps the university deliver an important message to students: “We care about what you’re doing in the classroom and in the real world. We’re here for many reasons—to educate you in your program studies, in your general education studies and in your life when it pertains to financial literacy.”

Engaging content

As part of Sullivan’s QEP, undergraduates must complete WhichWay modules on budgeting, credit and debt to graduate with at least an associate degree. Bachelor’s degree students also must complete the Successfully Repaying Student Loans module, which is accessible to associate degree graduates. Students can access modules with any device, and receive immediate feedback while answering questions.

“A good number of our students do all four modules in their first year because they like the content, they find the modules very engaging and they want to learn more,” Riggs says. “And students have shown improvements from the pretest to the post-test over all modules in all quarters.”

Improved scoring

In the four quarters from summer 2017—when WhichWay was implemented—through spring 2018, budgeting students scored an average of 10 or more points higher from pretest to post-test; credit students scored 12 or more points higher from pretest to post-test; debt students, 14 or more points higher; and loan repayment students, 16 or more points higher.

For more information, visit studentconnections.org