Managing finances has always been a challenge for college students, who are often on a tight budget and on their own for the first time. But in recent years, students are borrowing more to pay for college, resulting in skyrocketing loan debt. In fact, student loan debt in America exceeded $1 trillion in 2014.
In an effort to help students plan for the cost of education and manage their financial obligations, Southern has created a position devoted specifically to provide financial literacy and planning information for current and prospective students, as well as their families.
Lew DeLuca, who had served in the university’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships for 10 years, has been tapped for the position of coordinator of student financial literacy and advising. Through advising, outreach and on-campus programming, he will work closely with students and parents to raise awareness about financial literacy, student aid programs and scholarships, as well as the advantages of the timely completion of a degree.
“Southern is excited to provide financial planning services to our current and future students and their parents to help ensure our students are informed and prepared for the full cost of the degree, not just for one semester or year,” says Kimberly Crone, associate vice president for enrollment management.
Both Crone and DeLuca agree that the new service will bolster student success and ultimately improve overall degree completion.
“Financial aid departments in colleges and universities have people who talk with students, but generally not in the kind of depth that we will be able to provide on a consistent basis,” DeLuca says. “And we are available to talk with high school students and potential transfer students, as well.”
The position was created in response to recommendations by Southern’s Student Success Task Force. “There was a clear, demonstrated need to help students gain financial literacy,” he says.
DeLuca says he has financial planning worksheets geared toward undergraduate and graduate students, both in-state and out-of-state.
“We can look at the estimated yearly tuition and fees, as well as the projected costs for room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other items,” DeLuca says. “We’ll then estimate how much in revenue a student has – including grants and scholarships, student/parent loans, savings and credit cards.”
Students also will receive a financial planning guide that offers tips on saving money and reducing debt.
“Students often don’t realize how much cheaper it is to save money now, rather than borrowing money and paying it back later,” he said. “Interest really adds up.”
For additional information, check out the university’s financial literacy and advising webpage.