SUNY tests new loan-monitoring program

SUNY is implementing a new program this year called “Smart Track” on many SUNY campuses to help students reduce their debt.

“Smart Track” is currently being tested on pilot campuses. These campuses include Niagara County Community, Schenectady Community College, SUNY Ulster, Fredonia State, Purchase College and the University of Albany.

The goal of the program is to prevent students from making bad loan choices and defaulting on loans. The key goals of Smart Track are to expand the student loan service centers on campus and to send an award letter stating the exact loans and types of financial aid students will be getting called a “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.” The program also includes a Net Price Calculator and an early engagement process.

Smart Track is essentially an early prevention program for students. The program will allow students to access services that can teach them about loans such as what a Stafford Loan is. This program is especially directed toward students who are at a high risk to default on a loan, which can have very negative outcomes.

Everything for loans will be centrally located at one site for easy access to students. According to the Project on Student Debt, at Oswego State, 79 percent of students graduated with debt.

The average debt for a student in New York is $26,271 with 69 percent of students carrying that debt. The average cost of attendance at Oswego State is $20,728.50 as of 2012-13.

While the unemployment rate for college graduates is lower than the national average of 8.1 percent, students with Bachelors degrees will still face 4.1 percent unemployment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their August report on unemployment.

By fall 2013, all 64 SUNY campuses will have Smart Track implemented. Within this year Oswego State should be adopting the program. The financial aid office is also willing to help with any questions about financial aid awards, as well as set up appointments to talk to students and help them understand their loans and financial awards.

“We would individually examine how much loans they want to take out and how many years they want to pay it back in, such as 10 or 15 years,” senior financial aid advisor at the office of financial aid Sue Borden said. “We would also go through repayment plans, forgiveness programs, and cancellation programs. Just call the office and make an individual appointment.”

The Smart Track program could help many students to understand how much debt they’ve taken on. When asked about their student loans, many students were unable to estimate their debt burden.

“Currently I’m in no debt, but that’s because I went to a crappy community college and just transferred here, but I will more than likely be in debt next year,” Oswego State junior Lauren Calabrese said.

“I have no idea, in fact I got in trouble because I thought it was paid for and got a very angry letter because it wasn’t, but apparently they don’t send paper bills anymore,” Oswego State junior Joe Cesta said.

The program will be implemented at all SUNY schools in Fall 2013.