Gov. Terry E. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today applauded Iowa Student Loan and other educational organizations for their recent efforts to help college students avoid excessive debt and provide school-aged students with more financial literacy resources. At the administration's weekly press conference, Branstad and Reynolds highlighted several efforts that directly align with their goal to make college affordable and reduce student debt, as noted in Branstad's 2014 Condition of the State Address last month.
"We've been working to ease Iowa students' debt burden through tuition freezes at the Regents institutions and proposed increases to Iowa Tuition Grant dollars," Branstad said. "I believe earning a college degree or obtaining career training is critically important, and while borrowing for college is a good investment, students should not borrow more money than they absolutely need."
Branstad introduced Iowa Student Loan Board Chair Christine Hensley, who spoke about how the state-based, nonprofit student loan provider has been intensely focused on educating Iowa college students about the risks of overborrowing and the actions they can take to reduce their need to borrow.
"We're excited to announce our new and innovative financial literacy tool that helps students evaluate their return on college investment, or ROCI," said Hensley, who also is a member on the Des Moines City Council. "We expect students to invest a lot of time, money and effort in college. It's only fair that we provide them with the information necessary to evaluate what they might get in return."
The ROCI Reality Check by Iowa Student Loan is an online tutorial that allows students to compare various types of jobs, their associated starting salaries and the future demand and probability they'll get the job. It features quizzes and provides tips for improving students' marketability in the workforce. By pulling together this important career information into an easy-to-use format, it allows students to set realistic expectations for how much they might earn after college and how much they should borrow for college. Anyone can access the free tool on Iowa Student Loan's website at www.studentloan.org/ROCIRealityCheck.
To further build awareness about this financial literacy tool and to help Iowans' quest for a college education, Iowa Student Loan is offering for the first time a scholarship program for Iowa high school seniors. Through the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship, Iowa Student Loan will award $1,500 scholarships to 20 high school seniors. To qualify, students must complete two of its online financial literacy modules -- the ROCI Reality Check and Student Loan Game Plan -- as well as a financial literacy assessment test. Registered high school seniors and their parents also receive periodic emails with helpful financial literacy tips as part of the program. About 2,000 Iowa high school seniors registered to participate in the scholarship program. The registration period closed Jan. 31, and Iowa Student Loan will announce the 20 scholarship winners in April.
Reynolds said she appreciated Iowa Student Loan's commitment to helping students and their families make well-informed decisions about taking on college debt. She also expressed appreciation for the many other efforts taking place around Iowa that are increasing financial literacy and having a positive impact.
Some of the other new efforts highlighted by Reynolds include:
The Regents institutions' additional financial literacy program requirements for students receiving student loans.
The Iowa College Student Aid Commission's newly launched Web-based financial literacy program, Vault, which was developed by EverFi and made available to upper elementary students in 2013.
The 2013 Legislature appropriation of $100,000 to the Iowa Banking Division for financial education.
The Iowa Department of Education's financial literacy advisory committee, which was launched in January. The committee will meet through late April and will provide best practice and resource recommendations to help schools teach financial literacy.
In addition, ongoing efforts, such as the Iowa College Student Aid Commission's high school financial literacy program, continue to make strides. The free online financial literacy program, developed by EverFi and supported by local financial institutions, helps Iowa educators teach, assess and certify Iowa high school students in hundreds of core concepts on personal finance. It has been incorporated in 132 high schools and is expected to be in a total of 200 schools by the end of the school year.
"There's a broad consensus in both the education and business communities that we can and should build on present efforts for these critical life skills," Reynolds said. "With a sustained focus and coordination, we can make a positive difference in the lives of Iowa students in their financial literacy abilities. That is good for them and good for our state."