Loan education office helps students with financial questions

Danielle Ferguson

A 30 minute conversation has the power to ease the minds of students who feel overwhelmed when it comes to paying for their college education.

Jennifer Schroeder, program coordinator for the new Student Loan Education Office, said that a one-on-one conversation with an adviser from the office can show students all of their options to properly manage loan debt and/or lay out a personal budget.

The Student Loan Education Office is a partnership among the Government of Student Body, the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Student Financial Aid. The office opened in August 2014, but is having its ribbon-cutting opening ceremony Jan. 20, at 10 a.m. The event is open to the entire university community outside the office at 0680 Beardshear Hall.

President Steven Leath, Vice President of Student Affairs Tom Hill, Office of Financial Aid Director Roberta Johnson and Government of Student Body President Hillary Kletscher will be at the opening to share a few remarks, followed by refreshments until about 11 a.m.

Since its opening, the office has seen more than 600 students for individual advising appointments and has done 39 financial presentations, which reached just over 2,000 students, Schroeder said.

“We were busy and we hope to be busier this spring and moving forward,” Schroeder said.

Students who scheduled individual appointment came in for various reasons, such as student loan entrance/exit counseling and personal finance budgeting. Students who are borrowing private loans for the first time have to come into the office for budgeting and debt-management counseling.

Schroeder said there was an even distribution of both in and out of state residents, undergraduates of all classifications and even some professional and graduate students.

The biggest concern Schroeder said she hears from students is borrowing the whole amount offered on their financial aid award letter, but not necessarily needing all of it.

“We can have that discussion and say, ‘You’re requesting x number of dollars, but I think you really only need this amount,’” Schroeder said.

That conversation can be an eye-opener for some, she said, especially with freshmen.

“We ask them, ‘Do you plan to borrow like this for the remainder of your time here?’ and overwhelmingly students, especially as freshmen, haven’t thought about that,” Schroeder said. “I think it’s starting to get them thinking about it holistically and not just one year or semester at a time.”

Even if students don’t have that full conversation with an adviser from the office, Schroeder said the free information they provide will sometimes kick off a discussion with the student’s parents to how they are paying for college and, if they borrow money, how much is necessary.

“We also talk about other ways to cut expenses: splitting costs with a roommate, shopping around for textbooks, looking for student discounts. We’ve talked to them about different ideas to lessen their need for loans or money in general,” Schroeder said.

About 62 percent of ISU undergraduates graduate with student debt, down from the 74 percent 10 years ago. The average amount of student loan debt an ISU student graduating with debt takes on is almost $29,000.

Kletscher, who began working on opening the office last year as vice president of GSB, said the office is an important way to combat that amount of debt. 

“I think it’s really important that we make sure our students are preparing for financial success after graduation as well as while they’re in college,” Kletscher said.

GSB made the decision in the fall 2014 semester to focus funds more on the student loan office rather than the financial counseling clinic because the loan office is more tailored to students. 

“A lot of our students are stressed about their financial situation and how they’re going to pay for college and this is just one more way to make sure that we’re providing students with the services that they really need,” Kletscher said. “When our students do have student loans, it just makes sense.”