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Lack of counseling leads to larger student debt

The Towerlight, on October 17, 2012
by Dana Kobilinsky

A new study shows that only 55.3 percent of college students have received student loan and financial aid counseling, although Universities are required to provide counseling to every student.

The study, conducted by NERA Economic Consulting and advocacy group Young Invincibles, said that of the students who received counseling, 59.3 percent found it informative.

Some students feel that Towson’s financial aid office does not provide sufficient financial aid assistance, though it does offer online counseling.

“The financial office was not helpful at all,” freshman biology major Bea Remolador said. “My mom and I went to a seminar outside of Towson at my community college about financial aid. At Towson, we got so confused.”

The Acting Director of Financial Aid David Horne said that when students first apply for aid, they must complete online financial advising.

“We also are required to ask for exit counseling,” Horne said.

The counseling includes an overview of the loan process, terms of the loan and rights and responsibilities, Horne said.

When students graduate, their exit counseling includes payment responsibilities.

“We try hard to advise students about typical problem areas,” he said. “We try to give them teasers for some of the things that might worry them. Common problems are reductions in aid because of outside scholarships and the minimum number of units needed to be eligible for aid.”

Some students feel that Towson’s financial aid office is not responsive to their concerns.

“Do we even have a financial aid office?” freshman pre-speech pathology major Victoria Richardson said. “My mom and I contacted the office and didn’t receive an answer for three weeks.”

Horne said that there are three types of loans available to students.

There are federal student loans, which have the lowest interest rates and borrow costs, federal parent loans, which have slightly higher costs and private student loans, that Horne said are a last resort because of their high cost.

Most students are eligible for aid no matter their annual income, he said. Students can choose how much they want to borrow.

“After financial aid processes the FAFSA, they might request additional documents,” he said. “We will submit them promptly once we have everything we need and then we send out an award letter. The letter lists the grants we are able to offer and maximum loan amounts you can borrow.”

There are good and bad aspects to taking out loans, Horne said.

“It is a double-edged thing,” he said. “The pro is investing in your education and preparing for a good job and good earnings down the line. The dangers are borrowing more than you should, based on what you expect to earn in your career.”