New alliance to help students better navigate college costs, loans

As part of a growing national movement to help students understand the cost of attending college, Bloomington-based Indiana University (IU) has established the Higher Education Financial Wellness Alliance, through which colleges will develop best practices for improving students’ financial literacy and wellness, Education Dive reports. IU announced the alliance at its 2019 Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit, which brought together 340 attendees from 175 institutions.

With a pilot program in 2019 and full operations beginning in 2020, the alliance will provide support services, including online and in-person programming to train staff and a coaching program to assist in the development of new campus initiatives. Key goals include reducing the negative impact of loan debt and ensuring that unplanned expenses don’t derail students’ progress toward graduation.

“There has never been a greater focus on student finances, from student loan debt to the role that student finances play in student success,” said Phil Schuman, IU director of financial literacy and executive director of the alliance. “…[T]he alliance will provide the premier opportunity for them to develop new programs, learn about best practices, and contribute to this important national conversation.”

Gen Z students especially debt-conscious

The alliance’s launch comes at a time when the nation’s student debt has surpassed $1.6 trillion dollars, and Generation Z students are more debt-averse than millennials were—and likely to benefit from added cost transparency. Whereas millennials “were in some ways blindsided by the debt,” Gen Z students are “mindful about trying not to put themselves in that situation,” said Corey Seemiller, co-author of the book Generation Z Goes to College.

Education Dive notes that the new alliance complements other recent efforts to increase cost transparency and financial literacy, including research highlighting jargon-filled financial aid offer letters and inadequate net-price calculators. The U.S. Department of Education, meanwhile, recently called for universities to stop labeling loans as “awards” and recommended that colleges share estimates for things like transportation, medical insurance, and housing.

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