ROUND ROCK, Texas – Policy can and should do a better job of preparing students to responsibly navigate the federal student loan system. That is the central message of a new report from TG, in collaboration with the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).
Effective Counseling, Empowered Borrowers, the fifth and final installment in a series of reports on student loan counseling, identifies specific policy changes that could improve current counseling efforts, thus better equipping students to navigate the sometimes-confusing borrowing and repayment process. The report draws from the previous four studies – which examined legislative history, research literature, the student experience, and promising practices – to suggest several improvements. For example:
- Congress could allow schools to require additional loan counseling.
- Congress could grant the Department of Education the flexibility to make online counseling simpler and more personalized.
- Initial online loan counseling could accompany the new early FAFSA filing, helping students consider the financial implications of their application and enrollment decisions.
These and other recommendations speak to a pressing concern in higher education. “The process of borrowing and repaying student loans can seem quite daunting to students and parents, so the earlier we can get information about college costs and paying for college into the hands of students and families, the better,” said NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger. “Tailoring the relevant information to the student will also go a long way toward making the process more streamlined and less confusing.”
“For students to be successful in today’s world, they need a sense of financial awareness. Colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to provide this type of training, and the programs and outreach offered by institutions featured in this study can help start those conversations,” said Cheryl Willard, Associate Financial Aid Director at Baldwin Wallace University, one of the featured schools.
TG’s prior research provided context and identified concerns regarding current practices. “We have learned a lot over the past two years,” said Jeff Webster, TG’s Director of Research and the project lead. “Now we have to use that knowledge to better empower borrowers to be their own best advocates.”
Congressional hearings on student loan counseling earlier this year suggest that the issue is already on policymakers’ radar. George Torres, TG’s VP for Government Relations, sees this as a good sign, and hopes that the report will help build momentum for improvement.
“The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is an excellent opportunity for Congress to make loan counseling more effective in the 21st century,” said Torres.
To review Effective Counseling, Empowered Borrowers and the other reports in the TG/NASFAA counseling series, visit www.TG.org/research/
TG is a nonprofit corporation that promotes educational success to help millions of students and families realize their college and career dreams. TG provides critical support to schools, students, and borrowers at every stage of the federal student aid process — from providing information on how to pay for a higher education including financial aid options, to facilitating successful loan repayment after graduation.