The University of South Florida (USF) seeks to raise awareness of current student loan, debt, and hiring issues, and to develop a peer-to-peer advising system. The program focuses on individual financial planning as well as on refining the University of South Florida’s cost-of-attendance calculator such that the various costs charged by the university, predominantly tuition and the range of fees assessed students, are substantially more transparent.
Project plan and activities:
This program enhances the extensive existing undergraduate program, including the required freshman online financial literacy module Financial Literacy 101 and the program “Bull 2 Bull.” Two full-time staff and 10 undergraduate (seniors) peer counselors meet with students individually to discuss their financial concerns and needs. Additional financial education programs are offered during all new student orientations and in residence halls.
The core of the funded project revolves around a ‘peer-to-peer’ financial mentoring program in the Office of Financial Aid as a resource, not only for enrolled graduate students, but also for undergraduate students considering continuing their education at the graduate level. Graduate students are counseled by a graduate assistant and two graduate advisors, who head the graduate financial counseling. Graduate students also receive specialized materials focusing on topics such as How to Budget, Appropriate Use of Credit Cards, Loans, Long-Term Financial Ramifications of Academic Decisions, Debt, and Building Credit. These materials are available on-line as a downloadable PDF, through the Leadership Institute, Graduate Ambassadors, graduate students enrolled in the Summer Program, graduate student orientations, and recipients of graduate student fellowships and scholarships.
These services are offered to all students, but especially focus on several subgroups, including undergraduate students considering graduate school, students who are full fee paying and funding their own education, students who have been impacted by the limitations of ‘Satisfactory Academic Progress’ on receiving continued federal student loan support, and GAs who are receiving stipends, tuition waivers, and health insurance but also have a debt load.
The project also developed a new online financial calculator that clearly differentiates between tuition and the various fees that are also charged. This was developed so that the tuition can be differentiated based on the variable rates in place for undergraduates and graduates as well as allowing for in-state and out-of-state rates to be calculated by simply inputting the number of credit hours that a student plans on taking.
The Office of Graduate Studies, in conjunction with the Office of Financial Aid, developed a series of informative curricular tools that detail the nature of the current ‘debt crisis’ as it applies generally to students, but with an emphasis on those elements that most effect graduate students.
More information on the project can be found here.