USA Funds Presents Excellence in Debt Management Awards to Three Schools

Awards Recognize Student Loan Default Prevention, Financial Literacy Programs

May 10, 2011, 11:31 ET from USA Funds

INDIANAPOLIS, May 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- USA Funds®, a nonprofit organization that helps American families benefit from postsecondary education, has announced the recipients of its 2011 Excellence in Debt Management Awards. USA Funds recognized the following three postsecondary institutions for their efforts to promote financial literacy and help their students minimize and manage their student loan debt:

University of Hawaii at Manoa -- Honolulu. Since 2006 the University of Hawaii at Manoa has undertaken a financial literacy initiative that relies heavily on students teaching other students. The university began using peer educators to teach incoming students about personal finance issues during new-student orientation. Based on the success of those presentations, the university expanded its financial literacy training to other units, including financial literacy lessons to freshman learning communities, as well as workshops delivered through student support services, the cooperative extension service, student life and development, and financial aid offices. Since the program's inception, 2,900 UH Manoa students have completed lessons of USA Funds Life Skills®, a financial literacy program for college students, and have demonstrated, on average, a statistically significant gain in personal finance knowledge. In addition, 500 students who participated in university-sponsored financial literacy workshops demonstrated greater awareness on 13 of 20 indicators. The award includes a $15,000 USA Funds grant to support student scholarships at UH Manoa.

San Jacinto College -- Pasadena, Texas. Faced with rising student loan default rates, this community college pursued a multiphase approach to debt management, included analyzing enrollment and borrower reports, enhancing borrower communications, and launching a financial literacy initiative. The college hired a full-time default prevention manager in 2008 to develop and carry out its program. The default prevention manager developed a profile of delinquent and defaulted borrowers to guide the college's default prevention practices and initiatives. The college enhanced its print literature and online information about financial aid and student loans, incorporated the information as part of the student orientation process, and established an 11-member default prevention committee. As part of an ongoing financial literacy initiative, the college has enhanced its borrower counseling activities, begun mailings to past-due student loan borrowers, and developed a college success course for students at risk of dropping out. As a result of these initiatives, the school's draft 2009 cohort default rate decreased to 10.2 percent, down from the 2008 rate of 12.9 percent and the 2007 rate of 15.7 percent. The award includes a $10,000 USA Funds grant to support student scholarships at San Jacinto College.

DeVry University -- Downers Grove, Ill. Last June DeVry launched a comprehensive financial literacy initiative. The initiative includes workshops, a financial literacy website, third-party default prevention vendors, email campaigns and financial literacy fairs. DeVry has invested in a team of 35 full-time-equivalent staff to support the program. To date, the school's main focus has been ensuring student completion of exit counseling. Departing students are offered the option to complete exit counseling over the phone, in person, in group sessions or online, with follow-up calls from the school to ensure completion. As a result the school has increased exit counseling completion by 10 percent. DeVry also is developing a website with life skills information, and the school uses third-party vendors to contact student loan borrowers during their grace period and if they fall behind in their loan payments. In addition, the school's financial literacy staff members are working with academic units to incorporate financial literacy objectives into select courses. The award includes a $5,000 USA Funds grant to support scholarships for DeVry students.

"These three colleges and universities have invested significant resources in creative and effective debt management programs that have produced positive results," said Denise B. Feser, USA Funds senior vice president, School and Student Services. "Promoting responsible borrowing and teaching students to become smarter consumers will help them better manage their education expenses and their finances after graduation."

Since 2004 USA Funds has presented its Excellence in Debt Management Awards annually to highlight outstanding campus debt management and financial literacy programs and to disseminate to other postsecondary institutions best practices in debt management and student loan default prevention. USA Funds selected the award-winning programs based on measureable results, creativity, scope, staff and faculty involvement, and cost-effectiveness.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, USA Funds is a nonprofit corporation that works to enhance postsecondary education preparedness, access and success by providing and supporting financial and other valued services. For more information about USA Funds, visit