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New financial literacy program targets student debt

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

VP/Enrollment Joe Howard

The challenge of paying for college and the impact of rising student debt continues to build, while the dizzying array of college loan programs presents a learning curve all its own.

Mercyhurst University is taking steps to address this higher education and economic crisis by providing a free online resource that makes it simpler for students to take control of their personal finances and student loans.

Beginning Feb. 10, Mercyhurst becomes the first school in northwestern Pennsylvania to partner with the nonprofit organization American Student Assistance® to provide the free service, SALT™, to the university’s 3,400+ students and 16,000+ alumni. (SALT is not an acronym, but a reference to a type of ancient currency.)

“Mercyhurst is taking a leadership role in higher education and providing this program to help our students become financially literate,” said Vice President for Enrollment Joe Howard. “We also see SALT as a resource for recent alumni as they begin the process of paying back their college loans.”

SALT, available online at saltmoney.org, provides personalized tools to teach students and alumni how to borrow less for college, borrow the right types of loans, make repayment stress-free and build money knowledge. SALT has an online community where members can talk with experts and peers about student debt, financial aid and managing personal finances. SALT counselors also work directly with students and alumni to help negotiate with their loan servicers.

“We know that 95 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid and we granted nearly $50 million in Mercyhurst aid and scholarships last year,” Howard said. “Still, we realize that many students supplement their aid packages with student loans.”

Nationally, approximately 12 million students borrow for college each year, but many borrow more than they need, or fail to take advantage of the many programs to make repayment more manageable, according to SALT. As many as one in three student loan borrowers in the U.S. are delinquent on payment 90 days or more, delaying the ability to buy homes, cars or any other consumer purchases typically associated with starting out in life.

“A college degree has never been more valuable than in today's global economy and we are committed to our students’ success, both in college and beyond,” Howard said. “We are eager to provide this new support system to help them manage their debt and make wise financial decisions for their futures.”