The University of Northern Iowa's financial education class is helping students manage their money more responsibly. 

At the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), the number of students using student loans to pay for college is at an all-time low. This is thanks, in large part, to the college’s “Live Like a Student” program.

This free course teaches students how to manage their money, analyze how they are spending their money, and track their student loans. And students who plan to take out private loans meet individually with a counselor to discuss their financial aid.

Since launching the non-credit course, UNI has witnessed the number of students graduating with student loan debt go down significantly. During the 2011-2012 school year, 77 percent of students graduated with outstanding student loan debt. By the 2016-2017 school year, that figured had dropped to 69 percent.

During the 2016-2017 school year, UNI students took out $4.6 million in private student loans. This figure is 70 percent lower than the number of private student loans UNI processed during the 2007-2008 school year.

UNI President Mark Nook credited this success largely to the “Live Like a Student” program. Nook said that compared to other college graduates, UNI students will have less debt and be able to pay off the loans they do have much more quickly.

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The foundation of UNI’s program is the personalized financial literacy training. During the three-week training, students will log all of their expenses and routinely review their spending. Additionally, students learn about budgeting, identity theft, and saving for their future.

They also receive a projected repayment total, which could help reinforce the reality that their loans will have to be repaid after graduation.

Programs like this may not fix the student loan problem, but it can help students entering college learn how to manage their finances more responsibly. And by giving students access to information, resources, and counseling, other schools could help their students achieve similar results.

This program even inspired Iowa State Sen. Jack Whitver to introduce a bill aimed at helping college students increase their financial literacy. Whitver said he was encouraged by the results UNI has achieved, adding, "We want to expand that to all the Regent universities because they've had tremendous success at UNI."

It remains to be seen whether other colleges will follow suit and begin offering similar programs.