Financial Literacy – Teaching the way to ‘live within your means’

Breaking away from national trends in student borrowing, the University of Northern Iowa has seen its average student loan indebtedness decrease by nearly 11% over the past seven years. The average UNI undergraduate student now graduates having borrowed $22,993, down from $25,735 in 2010.

The overall decline in borrowing can be attributed to our financial literacy efforts, actively participating in the Federal Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant program, more students completing degree programs in four years and additional private loan counseling.

Lower Debt
Private Education Loan History

In its seventh year, UNI's Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships help students learn what it means to "Live Like a Student." The overall purpose of the program is to educate students on the importance of living within their means while they are in school, ultimately reducing student loan indebtedness. Since inception, students have gained a greater understanding of how their actions today will affect their financial future. The course teaches students how to budget effectively and manage financial goals.

Given the particular challenges identified relative to financial aid for transfer students, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships has just undertaken another initiative involving mandatory face-to-face counseling with all new transfer students. Students sign up for counseling at orientation. Any students who do not sign up at orientation are contacted. Counseling sessions are held by professional staff, peer counselors and graduate assistants. The sessions cover, but are not limited to, budgeting, pitfalls to avoid, action items, resources and important loan information.

Finally, since the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships started one-on-one counseling for students seeking private loans in 2007-08, private education loan borrowing has decreased from $15.3 million in 2007-08 to $4.1 million today (73% decrease). The average private education loan debt upon graduation is $15,896, compared to $17,892 in 2009-10 (11% decrease). The number of students borrowing private education loans has also decreased; 167 students graduated with private education loan debt compared to 597 in 2009-10 (72% decrease).

UNI programming is a testament to its commitment to equipping Panthers with the skills necessary to be successful both before and after they graduate.