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Who has a stake in student debt?

Parents are important stakeholders in improving the financial literacy of college students
University Business, October 2013

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.”

Parents are also important stakeholders in improving the financial literacy of college students, and a recent poll shows debt in particular continues to be a point of concern. The Discover Student Loans Survey released in August, found that half of the 1,000 adults with college-bound children aged 16 to 18 who were surveyed said their kids plan to use student loans to help pay for college.

In addition, just 40 percent said they think their children fully understand the amount of debt they will incur upon graduation. Fifteen percent don’t think they understand at all.

In other words, college and university administrators have their work cut out for them in teaching the majority students about loan debt.

On some campuses, student demographics make the issue of how to pay for college especially urgent.

“Many times—especially here in our area, where our population tends to be economically disadvantaged—paying for classes ... is a big issue,” says Jael Garcia, associate director of student financial services at The University of Texas-Pan American. “There are students who, if it gets to point where they don’t have enough money, that’s going to be the end of their college career.”