Student debt is an overwhelming national problem, with more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loan debt and an average balance among 40 million borrowers of $29,000. SFCC is working hard to help students avoid taking on too much debt, which then can result in defaults. The college’s efforts are paying off. Working with funding from the college’s U.S. Department of Education’s Title V grant, SFCC began focusing on helping first-year students avoid the debt trap.
Through that initiative, students were educated about the consequences of getting in over their head, and were provided useful tools to better manage their money. Key features of the program include:
- Making debt management part of every New Student Orientation and First Year Student Success class
- Ensuring loans are not automatically “packaged” in award letters • Making “In-person” loan counseling mandatory for all first-time borrowers (includes all borrowers, not just First Year Student Success students) • If a loan is taken, all courses must apply to the student’s degree
- Partnering with New Mexico Student Loans to reach out to delinquent borrowers through a variety of methods.
As a result of the college’s efforts, the number of students taking on a student loan has greatly decreased. In 2012-13, 1,245 received a student loan. In 2013-2014, student loans dropped by 34 percent to 819 students. In 2014-15, student loans dropped even further to 613. That amount represents a 50 percent reduction when compared to the 2012-13 academic year. “The results were far greater than we expected. By cutting the number of loans by 50 percent, it suggests that students have chosen to forgo millions of dollars in indebtedness,” Scott Whitaker, Director of Financial Aid said.