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:

Streamlining FAFSA

The majority of USG campuses 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. We will deploy this service to the remaining campuses in late 2019.

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.

We are also developing a standardized, electronic award letter. The award letter will clearly articulate the cost of attendance, the financial aid awarded, a recommended loan amount rather than just the maximum offered and next steps. We will begin offering these to students in 12 to 18 months.

Finally, USG will expand the use of artificial intelligence services such as “chatbots” to quickly, accurately and consistently respond to student and parent questions. We will also offer customizable videos that that can be embedded in any of the above electronic communications.

Should you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Rich Loftus at rich.loftus@usg.edu or Tracy Ireland at tracy.ireland@usg.edu.