Your Financial Aid Office as Command Central

The U.S. Department of Education requires that you provide exit counseling to all students who receive federal loans. It is your school's responsibility—not the students' responsibility—to ensure these students complete exit counseling at the appropriate time. Effective exit counseling—ongoing loan counseling in general—can have a direct effect on your cohort default rate.

Having a knowledgeable staff is essential to answer student borrower questions and develop a counseling strategy.

The Required Knowledgebase

Staff should be well-versed in the fundamental lessons that exit counseling teaches. For example, staff must be able to:

Calculate the student's estimated monthly payments.

A good place to start is the Loan Calculator on Finaid.org, which also estimates the salary needed to cover these payments. Unsure if the payments are affordable? Salary.com can provide salary information based on the student's career interests. (Use the minimum salary, just to be on the safe side.)

Talk about budgeting and money management.

It's easy to create a budget with our online budget builder. Make sure that your students use numbers that are realistic. And factor in the monthly loan payments and salary information that you calculated above.

Discuss the various repayment plans, including consolidation.

All student borrowers start out with a Standard Repayment plan, in which the monthly payment is always the same amount. For students who may not be able to afford these payments right out of school, choosing a different repayment plan or consolidation may be better for the budget. You and your students can utilize our Repayment Plan Estimator to determine what repayment plan may best fit their needs.

Address the student's options if he or she can't pay.

Students may have never heard of deferment or forbearance. These options can provide temporary relief (or more) for students going through tough times. Urge students to explore these options before they fall behind in their payments. Missing payments can have serious consequences, and students need to know that help is out there.

Reiterate the lessons taught in entrance counseling.

In entrance counseling, students learned about the details of the MPN (Master Promissory Note), the consequences of default, and their obligation to repay a loan even if they don't like their education, can't find a job, or can't afford it. Now is a good opportunity to go over the details again, in case the student forgot.

Provide contact information for the FSA Student Loan Ombudsman.

Students may not know there's a place to go if there are any issues with their student loans. The FSA Student Loan Ombudsman is a neutral and impartial party that can help resolve disputes. Make sure your students have contact information for the Ombudsman.

The Logistics

Your office can streamline the counseling experience to meet the federal requirements in an efficient way. Don't wait for students to come to you with questions or concerns... be proactive and take action today. A few things you may want to think about:

Tell Us About Exit Counseling at Your School

When and how do you introduce exit counseling to your students?