Grand View University, located in Des Moines, Iowa, is taking steps to help students manage their student loan debt. 

Grand View University in Iowa is taking smart steps to help their students manage student loan debt. Kent Henning, the university president, decided to take action after watching students progressively take on more debt, the Des Moines Register reported.

Henning said that after seeing student debt levels rise to alarming rates during the recession, school officials knew they needed to take action. Nationally, student loan debt has increased by nearly 70 percent over the past 10 years. And in Iowa alone, average student loan debt per borrower exceeds $19,000.

To combat the issue, Grand View launched a program in 2014 called GV Complete. The program is focused on eliminating each of these challenges for students through access to resources and education.

Targeting the Causes of Excessive Debt

After looking into the problem, Henning and other administrators found a few key culprits. First, students are taking longer to graduate from college. Nationally, only about 19 percent of students graduate in four years; most students take 5.6 years to graduate from public universities.

This additional time has a significant impact on a student's tuition bill; in Iowa, students will owe an additional $16,500 for every additional year they attend college, the Iowa Student Aid Commission found.

Another problem many students face is the unpredictability of rising tuition costs. This makes it challenging for students to plan for how much they will need to borrow per year and results in many students borrowing more money than they need.

Several years ago, Henning looked at the data and found that 37 percent of students were borrowing more than they need to pay for tuition, room, and board, according to the Register. Most college students have a hard time understanding the impact this debt will have on their life after graduation.

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More About the Program

In the GV Complete program, Grand View provides each student with a Completion Coach who helps them with their academic and financial planning. Students who are enrolled in the program must meet with their coach at least once a year but can schedule additional meetings on an as-needed basis.

The Completion Coach works with students to help them stay on track to graduate in four years. They also help students understand exactly what their college expenses will be over that four-year period.

Each student is given a financial plan that paints a complete picture of their anticipated costs. They are also shown what their anticipated loan payments will be after graduation.

So far, the program seems to be working. In 2013, 77.4 percent of Grand View students graduated in four years or less. Five years later, that figure has risen to 86.1 percent of students. Meanwhile, the amount of student loan debt is going down. The average loan debt for graduates was $38,160 in 2014; this year, the average is $34,229.

Grand View University isn’t the only school that’s taking a proactive approach to student loan debt. Another Iowa school, the University of Northern Iowa, recently made headlines for its financial literacy course that is helping its students graduate with lower student loan debt.

Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, told the Register that Grand View’s proactive approach has caught the attention of many college officials in neighboring states.

Steinke said that one of the biggest advantages of the GV Complete model is that it makes attending and paying for college more predictable. It will be interesting to see if more colleges follow suit and adopt similar programs in the future.

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