Smart borrowing

Some California community colleges are using innovative strategies to promote “responsible use of federal student loans,”  reports  Making Loans Work by The Institute for College Access and Success and the California Community Colleges Student Financial Aid Administrators Association.

While most community college students do not borrow, “federal student loans are an essential source of aid for those who do need to borrow to get through school,” the report notes.

Among ideas for encouraging responsible borrowing:

Some colleges, including Santa Rosa Junior College, use worksheets to help students plan and budget for their education. This can substitute for in-person counseling at colleges with limited staff time, as well as help flag students who need additional guidance. Santa Rosa also holds regular “Workshops for Responsible Borrowing” throughout the semester.

Santa Barbara City College offers in-person counseling to every borrower, every year the student borrows. The meetings cover budgets, borrowing history, and academic progress and plans.

Long Beach City College and City College of San Francisco assign academic counselors to the financial aid office, to help make important connections between academic concerns and financial concerns.

To make sure they have a clear education plan, student borrowers at Antelope Valley College who have taken 70 units must see a counselor and submit an explanation of their plan for finishing their degree or transferring. Mendocino College does the same at 60 units.

Several colleges use automated systems to flag students who may be in danger of borrowing too much or defaulting on their loans and ensure they get help to stay on track.