Wednesday, September 30, 2020

$1M outreach program opens

Plattsburgh State recently received a $1.6 million grant, $1 million of which will affect a program designed to reach out earlier to student loan borrowers who withdraw from classes.

“Students who separate from the college before graduating are much more likely to not complete their degree, and much more likely to default on their student loans,” Financial Aid Director Todd Moravec said.

Financial Aid Director Todd Moravec said SUNY participated in a pilot study in 2013 with Nelnet, an education planning and financing company, in which Nelnet contacted students from PSUC and other SUNY campuses who dropped out of college, informing them not only about loan repayment but also with information that would provide the students with incentive to resume and complete their education.

“It’s all about early outreach — getting that message to the student who separates sooner and encouraging them to re-enroll,” Moravec said.

A summary of the pilot study reported that students who take out loans were more likely to return frequently updated messages.

“At peak, 36.4 percent more project borrowers had returned to school than those in the control group,” according to the summary.

This year, when PSUC received its $1.6 million grant, the college endeavored to replicate the results from the pilot study.

As of Feb. 11, 29 SUNY campuses are expected to join in this program, and Moravec said this is “primarily SUNY’s project.” However, PSUC will receive the funds from the grant and distribute them where the college deems necessary.

Moravec said that with an external representative sending emails to students who say SUNY wants them to finish college, it provides a friendly face, not only on the campus, but in the SUNY system.

Moravec said there is a tuition refund schedule that applies to students who withdraw from the college for medical or personal reasons — reasons over which the student has no control.

In the first week of the semester, a student could receive a refund up to 100 percent of his or her tuition; in the second week; 70 percent; third week, 50 percent; fourth week, 30 percent; and on the fifth week of classes, the student would not be entitled to a refund.

However, there are exceptions to the rule.

Moravec used a hypothetical example of a student who withdraws from PSUC because he or she was hit by a car. If he or she could not fill out the paperwork due to hospitalization, the financial aid office would then look at the necessary documents and make arrangements to suit that former student’s needs.

Moravec said he hopes the early-outreach system will be in place, serving its first students this fall.

PSUC senior and human development and family relations major Kelsey Kober said that this measure by SUNY is making students aware of all their options.

“If you drop out, there’s obviously something going on,” Kober said. “That’s something that’s going on in your life right this moment, but you’re always going to have a college education,”
PSUC biology major and sophomore Brittney Barnes said, when a student makes the choice to withdraw from college, that student is going through a great deal of stress. She said that hearing about loans after withdrawing from the college would add to that stress level.

Instead of initating a communication plan, Barnes said she advocates counseling for students who consider withdrawing from classes.

PSUC freshman and chemistry major Tristan Kemp said that early outreach to students helps them think things through and examine all their options before deciding to withdraw.

“Some students might feel that dropping out of college might be the best option, but it might not be true,” he said. “They might be better off in college, but they just don’t realize it.”
Kemp said giving students a chance to understand their options will make withdrawing students better off in the long run.

Moravec said if fewer students are contacted, the fewer students are likely to go back to college and graduate, and the more students are likely to default on their loans.

“This grant helps them be successful,” Moravec said. “I’m fully supportive of it.”

Email Tim Lyman at news@cardinalpointsonline.com

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