Central State University (CSU) Director of Financial Aid Sonia Slomba shares her thoughts on the ABCs of student finance—improving accessibility, reducing student borrowing, and driving down the cost of administration—at this Ohio-based HBCU in this four-part blog series.
Going into debt can be a scary thing. But for many, it’s the only way to pursue higher education. “In general, I feel there is a fear of borrowing,” explains the veteran Director of Student Financial Aid at CSU. “It’s especially scary at a young age, because you have nothing and if you’re borrowing you’re at a negative number.”
A big part of Slomba’s job, she says, is helping students understand borrowing while appreciating the fact that their investment will pay off. It’s an ongoing battle in FA offices nationwide: Studies show 65% of students misunderstood or were surprised by aspects of their student loans or loan process.
Building Financial Wellness IQ
It’s no easy task. Slomba says some families may not have a lot of exposure to higher education and may not see the value. It also can be hard for prospective students to envision a 10-year repayment plan when they can’t yet envision their lives a decade from now. “There is a deficiency in financial wellness knowledge,” Slomba adds. “Today’s society doesn’t really teach people how to be financially healthy, so we often have to start with the basics.”
Boosting Borrowing Knowledge
Central State University has measures in place to help students understand both the cost and value of an education. Slomba says this includes campus programs, a robust financial literacy plan, and an award letter that looks more like a bill—so families fully understand what they owe. Slomba and her staff also encourage potential students to look at different offers and compare them.
For instance, Slomba points out that a student could be choosing between attending the much-larger Ohio State University or CSU, the least expensive four-year degree school in Ohio. That student might be offered a $10,000 grant for Ohio State and a much smaller grant for CSU. “It can seem to that student that they would get more for going to Ohio State, but the tuition is higher so that’s not necessarily true,” Slomba explains.
“The end goal is not to convince students to attend CSU,” she says. “It’s about teaching them to plan, to learn about all the funding sources available, and to make an educated decision.” Slomba wants to see students become financially successful enough to pay back their loans, to buy houses, and to provide for their families.
“I want their education to become the defining moment to change their lives,” Slomba says, “and responsible borrowing is a part of that.”
Watch for the next installment of this series, in which Slomba shares her thoughts on how CSU is trying to keep costs down for students.