One of the potential drags on the nation’s economy is burgeoning student debt, which now totals more than $1.2 trillion.
Recent graduates, even those in good-paying positions, find themselves struggling to meet loan payments.
Purdue University has responded to this problem by freezing tuition for the past few years, and many colleges and universities across the state have offered discounted summer tuition in order to help students graduate more quickly.
Now Indiana University has taken a consumer-oriented step. All seven IU campuses now tell students before they take out loans for the next year what their monthly payment would be after graduation. The response has been immediate.
According to Education Department data, federal undergraduate Stafford loan disbursements at IU dropped 11 percent, or $31 million, in the nine months that ended March 31, compared with the same period a year earlier.
In a Bloomberg News report, Jim Kennedy, IU associate vice president and director of financial aid, said, “We are having more contact with the student where they can say, ‘I don’t want this,’ or ‘I want less.’ If they know at all times their debt and the repayment, it helps with a lot of planning.”
And at Purdue, undergraduate federal borrowing declined by 12 percent in the past three quarters on its main campus in West Lafayette after the campus added financial-literacy programs.
Studies have shown that many students, some as young at 17 when they first borrow, fail to understand loan terms and find themselves in financial straits when they are expected to begin repaying years later.
A recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York report found that fewer than half of survey respondents with student debt had high “loan literacy.” Federal law requires colleges to provide counseling to borrowers only at the beginning and end of their studies.
Enhancing students’ financial literacy is a welcome development under any circumstance, but when specifically directed at student loans, the impact is immediate and significant.
We applaud IU and Purdue for taking this pro-consumer approach and urge other colleges and universities to take similar steps.
Not only are they likely to reduce student debt, they will produce smarter consumers better equipped to thrive in the economic world after graduation.