In order to advance its mission, the University System of Georgia (USG) focuses on three priorities: Degree attainment, affordability and efficiency. In alignment with these priorities, USG recently launched a financial literacy known as “Know More. Borrow Less.” This systemwide initiative is a comprehensive plan aimed at reducing barriers to financial aid, improving students’ understanding of borrowing and reducing student debt.
The multi-pronged approach includes:
- Streamlining the federal student aid process.
- Providing timely, accurate information regarding college costs and student debt.
- Educating students and families about sound borrowing principles, including borrowing what is necessary rather than the maximum amount offered.
- Helping students understand monthly debt payments upon graduation.
Simply put, the goal of “Know More. Borrow Less.” is to provide students clear information about options to borrow less money. We began by evaluating successful system-wide programs in other states, as well as the individual efforts of some USG institutions. Based on this research, the following components, implemented system-wide, will be most effective at achieving this goal. These also provide a solid foundation for USG to build upon in the future:
All USG institutions have deployed new tools that simplify, standardize and automate how students and families resolve FAFSA verification issues. This dramatically reduces time spent by students and schools grappling with, and sometimes being derailed by, a complex federal process.
New Student Services
To help students make better borrowing decisions, we will deploy automated, customized and interactive debt notifications to students. Content includes the amount a student currently owes, the expected monthly payment and interest cost, projections of future costs should they borrow more and the estimated remaining loan eligibility. These notifications were deployed by all USG institutions for the first time in April 2019.
USG also developed a standardized, digital financial offer letter. The financial offer letter clearly articulates the cost of attendance, the financial aid awarded, loans available with a recommended loan amount rather than just the maximum offered and next steps. USG institutions began using the standardized digital offer letter for the 2020/2021 aid year.
Finally, USG is expanding the use of artificial intelligence services such as “chatbots” to quickly, accurately and consistently respond to student and parent questions. We also offer customizable videos that that can be embedded in any of the above digital communications. The chatbots are currently being used in the verification processing and digital communications.