For the third year, USA Funds renewed OSU Institute of Technology’s Capacity Grant, which enables university staff to help more students remain in school and then repay loans after graduation.
OSUIT’s $79,119 grant, which is in its third and final year of renewal, covers the cost of a full-time retention coordinator and a full-time default prevention coordinator, said Diana Sanders, director of financial aid and scholarships.
The retention coordinator works with students who are in danger of failing two or more classes in order to keep them from dropping out of school.
A team of eight peer mentors that are funded through the federal work-study program tutor at-risk students, and the program has had a lot of success.
“Students being peer mentored have a retention rate about twice that of the general student population,” Sanders said.
The default prevention coordinator helps students who are paying for school with loans understand the repayment process so they don’t default on those loans after they graduate.
For some students, this is the first time they’ve had to deal with budgets and finances, Sanders said.
“They come in all wide-eyed and they see these big amounts and we have to tell them they are loans and they have to pay those back,” she said.
OSUIT also formed a Default Prevention Task Force made up of administrators and staff who look at those who are default on their loans and determine the best ways to reach out to them, she said.
Since the grant was first awarded in 2013, the default rate has dropped from 35 percent to 24 percent, Sanders said.
The USA Funds grant has been instrumental in retaining students and educating them about paying for school, Sanders said, and many people have contributed to the grant application process and its success.
“It truly is a team effort,” she said.