Officials say overall student borrowing decreased by $34 million in 2013 compared to 2012 and the total number of undergraduate students taking out federal loans decreased by 12%.
“The idea behind our office being created initially was ‘Well, borrowing is a problem, how are we gonna reduce it,” says Indiana University Director of Financial Literacy Phil Schuman.
His office was created in 2012 to address student borrowing and college affordability.
Schuman says part of the reason student borrowing has generally increased in recent years is that students simply aren’t familiar with basic concepts like loan criteria necessary to make sound financial decisions.
He says one of the main traps students fall into is borrowing more than necessary.
“The default response in anybody’s head is here’s how much money we’re going to give you – you’re gonna take that much money,” Schuman says. “You know if somebody offers you $5,000 dollars – you’re gonna take that $5,000.”
IU created a series of personal finance classes that were introduced last fall focusing on budgeting, savings, credit and student loans.
The Office of Financial Literacy also runs a website called Money Smarts where students can get help.
Leslie Ducey is a graduate peer coordinator at Money Smarts. She says students aren’t just borrowing for books and tuition.
“Right now I think the hot topic is housing because a lot of students are starting to look at, especially the freshmen and sophomores, living off campus next year,” Ducey says. “And what does that entail – what kinds of costs should they expect and how can they save money and all of those kinds of issues.”
Ducey says she always recommends students only borrow money for school-related costs and attempt to pay for their living expenses on their own.