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Editorial: New program will benefit aid services

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 12, 2013 5:00 AM

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With tuition and the cost of living rising rapidly across the nation and the national student-loan debt totaling just under $1 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve, it is becoming increasingly important for students to understand how to manage their expenses.

The Project on Student Debt found that in 2011, 56 percent of University of Iowa students graduated with debt. Of that group, the average debt was around $27,000.

The UI Office of Student Financial Aid is taking measures to help address rising student-loan debt. This week, it initiated the UI Financial Aid Literacy Services, supported by a grant from a UI Student Success Proposal.

Sara Harrington, the Financial Aid Literacy Services director, said the program employs two graduate assistants from the College of Education to speak with students who have concerns regarding how to handle loans, financial aid, personal budgets, and other monetary issues.

The Provost’s Office gave a $119,989 grant to the Financial-Aid Office in order to begin the program, which will primarily cover the salaries and benefits of the two graduate students hired to run the program.

“Often, students enroll at UI without a plan in place to pay for their educational expenses.  Our goal is to help students understand how to budget and plan for their futures,” Harrington wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

The graduate students will also run workshops that encourage students to apply early for financial aid. Although only available to undergraduate students right now, after the two-year pilot is complete, the program will be open to all students.

The Daily Iowan Editorial Board feels that this program will strongly benefit students at the UI.
Students can email the Financial-Aid Office to set up an appointment with either one of the graduate assistants to discuss these issues.

Both of the advising students took a course on financial literacy in the fall 2012 semester, equipping them with the information necessary to handle general questions and concerns.

Harrington said that if students have questions about more complicated issues, such as the loss of a supporting parents’ income, that would be directed toward one of the professional financial-aid counselors in the Financial-Aid Office.

The graduate assistants were necessary, Harrington said, to speak with students for relatively longer periods (half an hour to an hour). Current financial-aid counselors, she said, have numerous clients to see every day and can’t spend vast amounts of time on any given individual. The Financial Aid Literacy Services help provide that extra time.

In addition to alleviating pressure on financial-aid counselors, providing valuable experience to graduate assistants, and helping students learn about the complex financial-aid process, this is also a brilliant use of funding.

While this program pays the graduate assistants, it can also help save massive amounts of money for students seeking help through education on money management and applying for financial aid. The effect goes far beyond paying for a research project that may or may not have real-world implications. The Financial Aid Literacy Services has the potential to benefit every single person involved in the program for several years, and any undergraduate student is eligible to see one of the graduate assistants.

The Financial Aid Literacy Services was an excellent choice to receive the additional funding thanks to how wide reaching the program’s effect can potentially be and because it addresses a pertinent issue that affects college students on a daily basis.


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