Denata Williams understands debt. As the Online Enrollment Coordinator and Default Coordinator, she talks to students regularly about saving on college costs and the risk of defaulting on current loans.
To help students understand how to borrow responsibly and how to manage student loan debt, the Albany State University Office of Enrollment Services established financial literacy workshops.
A study by Consumerist found that nearly 70 percent of college students graduated with over $28,000 of student loan debt in 2014. This loan amount is a 2 percent increase from 2013.
“Financial literacy is more than just financial aid. It is all across the board – from investing to managing your debt to borrowing for a loan for your house or car,” Williams said.
The Nov. 30 session, the last of four workshops for the semester, helped to guide soon-to-be graduates through the exit counseling process.
Jamila Rouse, a graduate student in the Master of Business Administration program and Thomasville, Ga., native, knows all too well how daunting the exit counseling process can be. Before graduating from ASU in 2013, Rouse completed the exit process on her own.
“The last time, I basically did it by myself, but this time, I read the information and found out how much I owe and how I can repay. If I have questions, or I don’t understand something about my loan, Williams can help me and provide more information on how I can contact my loan provider,” Rouse said.
The workshop with Williams was a big help, Rouse said, and made for a much more positive experience this time around.
“When you read through all of the information that is provided through exit counseling, sometimes it can get a little overwhelming,” Williams said. “You may have questions, and if you’re doing it by yourself, there is no one there to help you understand what it means. With the exit counseling session, we had people there to help answer specific questions.”
The Friday, Oct. 30 workshop, the third of four meetings, provided more information on student loan default by incorporating videos from the well-known TEDx (technology, entertainment, design) community. Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest, a personal finance planning program, and Tom Rippon, owner and operator of Avalon Institute, Inc., were the guest presenters.
“Some students don’t understand that once you graduate, you have to pay the money back. Once they go into default, they don’t understand that their wages can be garnished, their federal tax returns can be garnished, and it also has an effect on their credit report,” Williams said.
Each workshop centers around a financial theme, with the first being tailored to new student loan borrowers – freshmen students.
“In that session, students were given entrance counseling booklets and pamphlets about borrowing responsibly,” Williams said. “Thirty-one freshmen attended that event and interacted with a game called Financial Jeopardy.”
Rouse advises undergraduate students to take advantage of the resources provided through the workshops. “It’s better to get the information now,” she said, “because a lot of times, you can save a lot of money.”
Although the workshops are not mandatory, Williams encourages all students to attend the spring 2016 sessions that will launch in February. Future workshops will include information on additional personal finance topics.
About ASU … Albany State University, in Southwest Georgia, has been a catalyst for change in the region from its inception as the Albany Bible and Manual Training Institute to its designation as a university. Founded in 1903 to educate African-American youth, the university continues to fulfill its historic mission while also serving the educational needs of an increasingly diverse student population. A progressive institution, Albany State University seeks to foster the growth and development of the region, state and nation through teaching, research, creative expression and public service. Through its collaborative efforts, the university responds to the needs of all of its constituents and offers educational programs and service to improve the quality of life in Southwest Georgia. For more information see http://www.asurams.edu . Follow the university on Twitter at @AlbanyStateUniv and on Facebook at Albany State University Official Page.