A new website to be launched next week aims to give students the tools to manage their student debt.
The Department of Public Instruction designed the “Look Forward to Your Future” website to give students access to resources that will make them financially literate, DPI spokesperson George Althoff said. The website was Student Loan Debt Specialist Cheryl Weiss’ initiative.
The website contains information addressed specifically to high school students, parents and college students, Althoff said. The website also looks to be a resource for students who are now working but still have college debt.
“The website is intended to be a resource and a spot where people can go to get information on a number of things,” Althoff said. “There is a big focus on not just student debt but also planning for college.”
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Althoff said planning early can help students save more money and keep debt to a minimum. The website helps students plan out career aspirations and gives advice on the best and most financially efficient path to take to reach that career.
Apart from planning, the website also offers information about loan services such as refinancing and payments. Students can explore options based on how much they know they want to pay. Althoff said it is important to make payments regularly and the website will assist students with the process.
“By doing that you can control expenses that you will incur and you will incur less debt to get through and get your degree,” Althoff said.
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Weiss, who works under DPI’s Office of Financial Literacy, has worked with Wisconsin based institutions such as banks and credit unions that could be potential sources of refinancing. Their services will be offered on the website for students to use, Althoff said.
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But not everyone agrees that a website is the best solution for a problem as pressing as student debt.
Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, said more meaningful action is needed than simply referring students to a website.
Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for highest percentage of students graduating with debt. Shankland said other bills Democrats have introduced like the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill would be more efficient and allow student loan borrowers to refinance their loans like they already can with a mortgage.
“We need stronger leadership that will actually help recent graduates address their burdensome debt and allow them to achieve the American Dream,” Shankland said.
Althoff said the website will accommodate changing needs as more and more people use it. He said DPI and Weiss are open to feedback from students and parents.