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Q&A with financial literacy expert Rebecca Rose
Rebecca Rose, assistant director of financial literacy and education programs in the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs, gives some good advice, explains some of the work she and her colleagues do and describes one of the success stories.
Q: Most people recognize SU’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs as the place to secure funding and talk about aid packages, but the office also places an emphasis on financial literacy. Why is that important to your office?
A: The more students know and understand how to work, save and spend, the more they will make better choices about how they learn, live and eat. Also, they can take this knowledge with them after they graduate.
We are here to help teach all Syracuse University students to work through the steps of financing a college education, make sure they receive all the financial aid they are eligible to receive and in the process teach them about making sound financial decisions. It’s a partnership.
Q: What’s the top money advice that you give to first-year students?
A: The most important advice I give first-year students is to create a budget and stick to it. Budgeting is a lifelong process but one of the most important financial habits anyone can do for themselves. If you can establish a financial plan even as a student, it will pay off for you after you graduate.
Q: What are some of the key components of the “I Otto Know This!” program?
A: The “I Otto Know This!” financial literacy program is a multilevel program designed to provide relevant money management skills to all Syracuse University students.
We deliver in-person presentations to student organizations, groups and classes on such topics as budgeting, identity theft and credit scores. We offer online self-directed financial literacy modules, money management tips in our e-newsletter and the Federal TEACH Grant.
The foundation of “I Otto Know This!” is our Money Awareness program (M.A.P.). M.A.P. is a selective undergraduate financial literacy program that can replace or buy back private education loans in exchange for a M.A.P. grant. The M.A.P. student is required to sign a contract stating their commitment to lowering student loan debt and to attend one financial literacy activity each semester to maintain the M.A.P. grant and eligibility.
Q: What are the strategies that you provide to graduating students as they start looking toward repaying their loans?
A: The federal government requires all students who borrowed a federal student loan to complete an online exit counseling session prior to leaving SU. We take this one step further.
At the end of each semester we offer one-on-one, in-person student loan counseling to students. We provide students with a personalized list of all their federal and, if applicable, private student loans that they borrowed while they were enrolled as a student. We explain each loan, identify the lender, and discuss the interest rates.
In these sessions, we also explain when repayment begins and walk the student through each loan repayment option available to them. The student leaves with a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities as a student loan borrower and a repayment plan that will best suit their needs based on their individual situation.
Q: Is there one story of a student you helped that stuck with you?
A: One of the M.A.P. students who began the program in 2009 had five credit cards and was on the path to borrowing unmanageable debt through private education loans. Through her time in the program she realized that she did not need to continue to borrow the private loans, as she found other ways to pay for her education through scholarships, grants and work income.
I received an email from her this summer stating that she had successfully paid off and cancelled her five credit cards thanks to the money management advice she received while in M.A.P. Through the guidance of the “I Otto Know This!” program, her hard work, budgeting and changing her spending habits, she’s now facing the job market with no credit card debt and manageable student loan debt.