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Universities Target Student Loan Debt with $1.2 Million Financial Literacy Investment

FARMINGTON, ME – The University of Maine System has announced plans to invest $1.2 million to expand the University of Maine at Farmington’s (UMF) successful Peer-to-Peer Financial Literacy Program across Maine’s seven public universities and eventually make peer-based financial education available through partnerships with Maine’s community colleges and local schools.

The planned five-year expansion will train students throughout the system as Peer Financial Educators who will initially deliver financial literacy programming and resources to their college peers. When fully implemented, the program will grow to include further outreach efforts to middle and high school and community college students to instill Maine students with the habits and awareness needed to make informed decisions about their personal finances and avoid excessive debt.

The Peer-to-Peer Financial Literacy Program provides one-on-one and group money management sessions and student loan default prevention guidance. This student-to-student interaction is a proven and powerful way for students to learn from their peers and improve their chances for financial success.

Started in 2013, the UMF pilot program trained students to help their peers have a better understanding of their finances and how to make good choices that would affect them now and in the future. Over the course of the program, a core group of six peer educators reached more than 1,000 students providing a wide array of assistance. They also interacted with counselors, advisors, teachers, students and administrators from secondary schools from around the state.

According to a recent report by American Student Assistance®, financial education programs empower students and alumni to make smarter financial decisions and foster management skills that last a lifetime. In a recent survey, 83 percent of active student members of SALT® reported that the financial education that they received through SALT made them think twice about how borrowing and debt may impact their future, and 41 percent had taken steps to increase their savings.

“Peer-driven, just-in-time education and financial counseling is an innovative approach that increases engagement and empowers students to take charge of their financial future,” says Mary Dyer, financial education officer with the Finance Authority of Maine. “The peer-based program launched at the University of Maine at Farmington has achieved promising initial results. The planned expansion to Maine’s public university campuses and into our communities will help improve the financial health of young Mainers and their families.”

“Students are increasingly vulnerable and often faced with navigating some of their most important financial decisions while in college,” says Ronald Milliken, UMF director of Financial Aid. “Increasing college costs and the attendant increase in student loan indebtedness are critical issues nationwide. There is a clear need to provide students with the knowledge and tools to successfully manage basic and complex financial issues. This program will help address those issues.”

“Many students who go to college today need some form of financial help to pay for college. For many of them this is the first time they are making financial decisions with lifelong impact,” says Michael Angelides UMF’12, former UMF Financial Aid counselor and coordinator of UMF’s Peer-to-Peer Financial Literacy Program. “As I came to realize as a student, and, later as a graduate, providing students at UMF with financial literacy education as early as possible is a crucial part of the preparation to help navigate the complex financial realities after graduation and to plan better for financial success.”

The $1.26 million investment to expand the Peer-to-Peer Financial Literacy project across Maine includes a $901,000 award from the Standard & Poor’s Settlement Fund administered by the Office of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and $359,000 in student employment funds and overhead support from the University of Maine at Farmington. A copy of the grant application and expansion plans can be viewed here.

“The University of Maine at Farmington’s Peer-to-Peer Financial Literacy program has helped our students understand and plan for financial decisions related to their time on campus and the decisions they will make as consumers and community leaders after college,” says Kathryn A. Foster, UMF president. “We very much appreciate the support we have received from our state partners. We are proud to have this opportunity to bring this innovative, student-led program to the campuses of every Maine public university with future outreach to school-aged students in high schools and middle schools across our state.”

“Maine’s public universities have made historic investments in financial aid, expanded low and no cost early college opportunities, and a nation-leading commitment to keeping the costs of public higher education within the means of Maine families,” says James H. Page, chancellor of the University of Maine System. “With the statewide expansion of a proven, peer-based financial literacy program we are going to improve awareness among our students and their families about the resources and choices that can significantly reduce the costs, time, and debt it takes to earn a degree or credential that leads to a good Maine career.”

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