Saint Leo offers a free web tool to help empower students to make informed financial decisions about paying for college: AccessReady.
While it’s true that more people are attending college than ever before (13.8 million 20 years ago compared to 21 million last year), it’s no surprise that more people are also taking out loans to pay for school.
According to the Consumer Protection Agency, Americans today own more than $1 trillion in student debt. That’s more than we owe on credit cards or auto loans.
On the other hand, it’s also become common knowledge that college graduates earn a million dollars or more over the course of a lifetime than workers with only a high school diploma.
It’s those realities that have made financial literacy for prospective college students – traditional students planning to attend immediately following high school or adults with careers looking to return to school – a national and economic imperative.
Assistance to make informed decisions
“People need to understand how to make wise financial decisions before—not after—they are faced with important decisions, such as how to finance their education or borrowing large education loans,” says Saint Leo University’s Associate Director of Communication and Financial Literacy Amanda Black.
And that’s one reason why the university is making a free, valuable financial tool called AccessReady available on its website for both traditional and online students.
A free web-based tool, AccessReady can help current and future students navigate the often overwhelming and acronym-riddled realm of financial aid. AccessReady provides practical information about financial aid, budgeting, loan types, and loan repayment options. (Click AccessReady to check out this tool.)
“We feel it is in our students’ best interests to be educated about their financial aid, loans, and general finances,” says Black. “So we encourage all our students to learn as much as they can about budgeting and managing finances successfully.”
Here are Black’s answers to some questions regarding this new financial tool.
1. What makes AccessReady a valuable tool?
AccessReady is simple, easy-to-understand material written in everyday language. More importantly, it’s highly relevant and valuable to anyone interested in learning how they can responsibly finance their education.
2. Can adult learners planning to take online courses use this tool?
AccessReady is for anybody with expenses who is or is considering pursuing higher education. Using AccessReady, adult learners can put together a precise plan to fund their education and easily breakdown their sources of educational funding (scholarships, loans, savings, etc.) as well as their expenses (tuition, supplies, etc.).
Adult learners may also find the short tutorials on Federal Loans of interest. Anybody who is thinking about borrowing Direct Loans can quickly gain helpful information through video clips of mini-lessons covering the types of loans available, repayment options, and more.
3. What is the most effective way to use it?
We recommend users begin by taking a general look around AccessReady. Some areas may be of more interest to others depending on where a person is at in the financial aid and budgeting process. We are confident there will be something of interest to everyone.
4. What are some of the most important features that current or prospective adult students should use?
One of the most useful features is the budget tool. Users are able to create monthly budgets to better understand their spending habits. By breaking down expenses and comparing the results to the listed income(s), adult students can get a better grasp and handle on their personal finances.
Even if you do not have money concerns, it is a great tool to evaluate your spending and identify ways to save more for retirement, emergencies, or big ticket items like houses and boats.
5. Does the tool offer any assistance with managing loans?
AccessReady has a really neat feature called the “Debt-O-Meter” that is perfect for critically viewing your loan debt. This tool allows borrowers to enter their anticipated date of graduation, current and future loans (amounts and interest rates), and projected income upon graduation as a means to estimate a student’s debt-to-income ratio.
A handy meter indicates whether or not the loan debt will be manageable (and to what degree) based on the expected salary. For borrowers that may not know what wage range to expect, there are several links available to salary websites.
AccessReady also has information on loan repayment plans and provides explanations as to what each plan entails.
6. Will the information I submit be kept confidential?
Yes. Users can feel confident that their privacy is protected. Personal information is kept confidental and safe.
7. Can I start using AccessReady before I apply or enroll to Saint Leo?
Yes! We encourage anybody who is interested in using AccessReady to help themselves – being financially literate and effectively managing your income and expenses are critical to fiscal success. Whether you are a current student or prospective student, we invite you to learn how you can better finance your education at Saint Leo University and your everyday life.
To start using AccessReady, click here.
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