Above and Beyond: What Eight Colleges Are Doing to Improve Student Loan Counseling

By Betsy Prueter

TG Research and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators recently released a study examining best practices in student loan counseling at colleges and universities in five states (Florida, New York, Ohio, Texas and Virginia). Given that the decision to borrow money to attend college is one of the largest financial endeavors a student or family undertakes, the report urges institutions need to adopt practices beyond the Department of Education’s online tool which users have found to be confusing and frustrating. Featured in the report are institutions that provide more personalized, in-depth counseling in the context of broader financial education.

Among the promising practices:

  • Cross training: for faculty and staff on students’ financial aid options so that they can provide a clear and integrated message for students across campus departments.
  • Holistic approach: so that loan counseling is understood to be just one part of a borrower’s financial life and so that students receive a more general and broad experience in financial literacy.
  • Marketing: information about loan counseling and financial education peppered in many places around campus and during many points during a student’s college career.
  • Targeting: students who need counseling the most but may not know how to access it.
  • In-person loan counseling: either as entrance/exit counseling, one-on-one/small group counseling or intensive two-hour sessions.
  • Peer-to-peer model: using well-trained students as peer financial coaches. Students benefit from the personalized financial education and coaches benefit from the hands-on experience that further develops professional skills.
  • Data-driven approach: to uncover which methods institutions need to improve upon (e.g. student surveys).