Taking out student loans has become a necessary evil for many students at the University of Idaho and across the nation. Student debt upon finishing college can fluctuate anywhere between no debt and tens of thousands of dollars.
In Idaho, average student debt is $24,134, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, a non-profit higher education research group.
Fortunately for Idaho students, this is not a soul-crushing amount of debt that will destroy a student’s chance of financial freedom — if managed correctly.
Unfortunately for Idaho students and many across the country, they will not graduate with the knowledge to properly manage their money and pay off their student debt.
According to the Department of Education, the most recent two-year default rate on federal loans was 10 percent, making it the highest student default rate in two decades. Not to mention, the three-year default rate that recently rose from 13.5 percent to 14.7 percent.
As with many debts, a certain amount of responsibility is placed on the borrower for defaulting on their loan. However in this case, you can place quite a bit of blame on rising cost of college and a bleak job market for recent graduates.
UI needs to step up and address this issue directly by teaching students how to address the financial obligations they have signed up for. The best way to reach students would be through a mandatory personal finance course.
The idea is not a foreign concept for UI, as ISEM courses are required for all first-year students. A mandated personal finance course would teach students the valuable knowledge they need to not just deal with student loan debt, but manage their money throughout their lifetime.
Others might say a mandated class would be unproductive, and the responsibility of teaching students this information would be better served in a resource center.
But UI has already tried to address this problem through the Idaho Personal Finance website, which is one of many programs under the UI Extension department. However, the website is difficult to find and rarely publicized.
The website contains informative financial tips. However, it is not interactive and would not have the same effect as a semester course.
A mandatory financial literacy course would force students who would not otherwise take a business course, due to their major, to still receive the skills they need.
To some extent, a course like this should have been taught in high school, where a greater number of students could be taught, and many schools do require similar courses to graduate. But with increasing percentage of defaulted loans, further action must be taken.
Creating a mandatory personal finance course is UI’s responsibility to students and the state. Preparing students for a future of repaying loans, budgeting and saving will be one of the most important skills UI could give to students.
can be reached at