April is National Financial Literacy Month and The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is kicking off a month-long series of events to spread the word on campus about SALT, a financial education resource that teaches students and alumni to make better decisions about borrowing for college, repaying student loans and managing money.
Planned events and activities include implementing financial literacy workshops with various on-campus organizations, providing confidential one-on-one financial counseling, and promoting financial stress awareness with several financial institutions/organizations at the UTC Stress Fair.
Since October 2011, UTC has partnered with the SALT program to provide students and alumni with additional financial literacy education, support and loan repayment counseling. SALT integrates with the University’s ongoing “Live Like a UTC Student” campaign, which aims to help students make smarter choices about borrowing and spending while they’re in school.
“We want students to live like a student now, so they don’t have to after graduation,” said Dianne Cox, UTC director of Financial Aid. “SALT is teaching our students how to borrow less, how to borrow the right type of loans, and how to develop good budgeting skills, so they’ll be in a better financial position once they leave school.”
Early results of the UTC/SALT partnership show that students are becoming better able to manage their debt load. UTC’s draft cohort default rate, a metric used by the U.S. Education Department to measure students who default within two years of entering repayment, shows a decline from approximately 7.3 percent to approximately 6.4 percent year-over-year since UTC’s implementation of SALT.
“It’s important for students to look at the big picture when it comes to their financial wellness, not just the amount they can borrow. Students should borrow the least amount necessary and consider what the loan repayment is going to be upon graduation,” said Dr. Jeff Rector, assistant director of Financial Aid at UTC.
SALT uses a variety of channels to meaningfully engage student and alumni members, develop financial capabilities, and positively influence behavior. SALT members receive proactive communication about student loan repayment options; one-on-one repayment counseling with student loan experts; a personalized online dashboard to track federal and private student loans in one place and compare payment options; a highly interactive Web financial education curriculum and other educational content; multiple self-serve Web tools and calculators to assist with budgeting; in-person group financial education training at the higher education institution; advocacy and assistance with resolving complex student loan related problems; and meaningful benefits and incentives, such as assistance with job/internship and scholarship searches.
“Financial stress can weigh heavy on a student’s college experience. Our goal is to help them make informed financial decisions when it comes to borrowing, managing, and repaying their student loans,” said Bill Parker, Campus Financial Literacy coordinator at UTC.
SALT is created and administered by American Student Assistance, a nonprofit that helps students make better decisions about planning and paying for college, and repaying student debt. All SALT services are free of charge for students and alumni, thanks to a unique contribution-based model whereby multiple stakeholders interested in student success, including federal or state government, colleges and universities, foundations or other non-profit organizations, and corporate sponsors, contribute to the overall cost of delivering service. ASA and UTC are currently exploring sponsorship opportunities within Tennessee.
More than 140 higher education institutions nationwide, from four-year private institutions to public institutions to community college, currently participate in SALT.
American Student Assistance is a private nonprofit whose public purpose mission is to empower students and alumni to access higher education and successfully complete a program of higher education financing and repayment. American Student Assistance provides student loan education and enables the development of financial competencies through the use of innovative web-based tools and trusted, neutral advice – all free of charge to students and alumni. Established in 1956 and based in Boston, ASA employs approximately 500 associates. Visit www.asa.org for more information.