When less is more: IU’s efforts to reduce student debt paying big dividends

Sometimes, seemingly small gestures can have hugely positive consequences.

Take, for instance, IU’s decision in late 2012 to begin sending students who had taken out student loans a letter twice a year updating them on how much they owed and what their repayment schedule would be. Seems simple, right?

Simply powerful beyond anyone’s expectations, it turns out. This gesture of providing power through information is a central part of IU’s student financial wellness program, launched in 2012 to help students get a better handle on their finances.

The decision to send these letters — along with the creation of a financial literacy website, peer-to-peer financial counseling, free financial management courses and more — helped lead to a 12 percent decrease in student loans taken out by IU students in a single year.  Put another way, that’s $31 million our students won’t be paying off — with interest — for years after they graduate.jars

IU’s MoneySmarts program, run by the university’s Office of Financial Literacy, has received some richly deserved media attention for its efforts, most notably the eye-catching reduction in student loan debt — including mentions in Bloomberg Businessweek and The Atlantic magazines. And this just in: University Business Magazine, a leading higher education news outlet, has named IU’s MoneySmarts program as one of 11 Models of Excellence for the current academic year. (Here’s the IU press release on the honor.)

Winning awards and being slapped on the back is all well and good, but the real satisfaction comes in helping our students succeed. The early returns on our financial literacy programs have been positive, but the office has much more planned, starting with hosting the National Summit on College Financial Wellness at IU Bloomington this summer.

Stay tuned for more on the Office of Financial Literacy and the MoneySmarts program as both continue to grow and serve our students in new and innovative ways. Until then, check out the latest MoneySmarts podcast on how to get the most out of your college degree — or as we like to say “how not to move back in with your parents.”


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