In response to a rapidly changing financial landscape that could put Lane’s ability to offer its students federal loans in jeopardy, the school has partnered with the web portal SALT to help students educate themselves in hopes of improving the odds of its students repaying their lenders.
The SALT portal is a subsidiary of the nonprofit American Student Assistance group, a former loan guarantor and debt collection agency that has refocused its efforts on preventing students who utilize loans from defaulting on their debt and improve their financial literacy.
A cohort default occurs when a school’s former student goes a period of 270 consecutive days without making repayment nor proper <br/>arrangements with the lender to eventually begin repayment.
SALT offers students a variety of student resources, including loan repayment calculators, scholarship information along with aggregated content from off-site resources considered relevant to student borrowers.
It’s an approach to try to help students both understand their money better, manage their finances better, and make better loan borrowing decisions,” Lane Director of Financial Aid Helen Faith said to student leaders during the Oct. 30 ASLCC meeting.
“SALT will also help Lane students who have left or graduated and are in the repayment process,” Faith said.
Faith said that SALT is an investment in its student’s financial literacy, a move the school hopes will increase its chances of avoiding sanctions, “aside from the fact that we feel it’s the right thing to do.”
Lane considered six bids from companies that offer similar services to those of SALT, ranging in costs from $10,000 to $360,000, deciding ultimately to go with the lowest-priced option.
After being awarded a $5,000 subsidy from Oregon’s Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, the college signed with the year-old company, putting up the other $5,000 for two years of the service.
SALT’s financial literacy services are available to former students from the past two years and current Lane students. According to Title IV of the Higher Education Act, a default cohort default is defined by when a federal loan is delinquent longer than 270 days.
In efforts to help prevent Lane’s higher cohort default rate from rising even further, the company reached out to many former students during their 270-day grace period.
After SALT’s Lane debut earlier this term, its services were met with mixed reviews from students.
ASLCC President Paul Zito said he felt enthusiastic about what he had seen from the program thus far.
“That they’re providing a program like this for the population is pretty sweet,” Zito said. “I was reallyexcited for the program. I logged into it myself and used a couple of the tools, and it’s starting to shape a more clear financial picture with what I’m going to do with college.”
Others, including Lane student and federal borrower Jasmine Stratton, are not as impressed with the service.
“It just sounds like a collection agency, so I just ignored it, thinking it was another scam,” she said.
Stratton said she hadn’t bothered exploring the service beyond the emails from SALT, which she said were sent to her in bulk.
Stratton said she feels Lane could have done a better job at presenting the service to students.
“Be personal,” she said. “I get crap in my email all the time, separate it from the garbage, because right now it’s just spam. Talk about it in class, hand out a flyer.”