Tips for getting students thinking about repayment while they’re still in school

11 Jan 2012 9:00 PM | Anonymous member

Tips for getting students thinking about repayment while they’re still in school

Doug Savage, TG Senior Regional Account Executive

 

With student debt balances higher than usual and a job market that remains challenging, worsening cohort default rates are a worry on many campuses.

 

Raul Lerma, interim executive director of financial aid and veterans affairs at El Paso Community College, says that his school’s numbers have been bucking the trend. Here are some tips he offers based on his experience. These three methods all involve ways schools can engage current students now to actively prevent default later.

 

Start repayment now

 

“The basic challenge,” he says, “is to help the students understand that they really do have to pay this money back. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real to them that they actually will need to make payments at some point.

 

“Therefore, it’s a good idea to get them making payments while they’re still in school. That might just be $50, but it’s still a good idea, because it creates two benefits. First, it chips away at the amount a little, and that’s obviously good, but the second benefit is more important: that tiny payment creates the habit and makes repayment real for them.”

Use in-person entrance counseling

Another strategy Lerma uses to manage default rates is to require in-person entrance counseling every academic year. “A lot of schools do this counseling online,” he says, “or it’s in-person the first year and online after that. But I think in-person counseling makes more of an impact, so we require it every academic year.”

Besides the impact of being in a session with an actual instructor, Lerma notes that there is also the benefit of teachable moments as students can ask questions, with an expert to answer at that moment.

Reinforce with brochures or even intermediate sessions

Lerma says that his office has also been employing a tactic of reinforcing loan repayment concepts often. “Whenever a student comes in our office for any reason,” he says, “we ask if they have loans. If they do, we give them an informative booklet.” The idea is that it might take several attempts to gain the student’s deep attention and have them engage the subject matter. Reinforcing the material with the brochure boosts the likelihood that students will read and understand the important information they need to grasp.

He adds, “We’re also considering the idea of getting students in for intermediate counseling sessions to reinforce what they may have forgotten from entrance counseling.”

In short, getting students to start repaying their loans while still in school (even if it’s only $50 per month), using in-person rather than online entrance counseling, and reinforcing the importance of repayment at every opportunity, may be effective ways to keep cohort default rates under control. The results at El Paso Community College seem to confirm that they are.

Doug Savage is a Senior Regional Account Executive with TG serving schools in TASFAA. You can reach Doug at (800) 252-9743, ext. 6711, or by email at doug.savage@tgslc.org. Additional information about TG can be found online at www.TG.org.

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