Yale Law School

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Let’s Talk — Financial Aid Office Sparks Conversation on Financial Literacy

Jill Stone, Director of Financial Aid at Yale Law School, has a simple message for students trying to navigate the complex and ever-changing world of student loans—let’s talk.

Through digital outreach efforts, engaging workshops, and personalized face-to-face counseling sessions, the financial aid office is working to spark a conversation on financial literacy by proactively building relationships with students and alumni in everything they do.

“We are not one of those financial aid offices where you can’t talk to a live person,” said Stone, who called the national discussion on soaring student debt a wake-up call to everyone in the industry. “When you come in, you sit down with us, and we have a real conversation.”

Starting in 2012, the financial aid department implemented one-on-one, individualized counseling sessions where students can meet with Stone and other members of the department to discuss their specific financial situations, loan obligations, and repayment options. While this opportunity is offered across the continuum of enrollment, it is geared primarily toward 3Ls. This year, Stone anticipated meeting with about seventy students, nearly fifty percent of the graduating students with student loan debt. The face-to-face meetings are a great way for students to learn about the different federal loan repayment options as well as the generous programs offered after graduation, like the Career Option Assistance Program (COAP). COAP provides substantial post-graduation assistance to graduates who choose lower paying career paths. On average, forty-five percent of all students with academic year loan debt will transition into the program. In fact, in 2012 alone, 415 alumni participated in COAP with more than $3.6 million awarded, numbers that have steadily increased over the last five years.

In addition to counseling, within the past year the department has worked together with the Career Development Office to roll out a series of informative financial literacy lunch workshops about loan repayment and managing personal finances. The workshops aim to answer students’ questions and help educate them on their financial planning. “Overwhelmingly, people say they are valuable and attendance has been great,” said Stone.

While the personalized interactions have been well-received, the department has also launched another initiative to engage students online through the use of an informative blog and a more user-friendly web presence.

The financial aid blog in particular has generated positive responses from students, alumni, and even many readers from other law schools around the country. The blog ranks among the top results on Google when searching for the terms “Financial Aid Blog,” and Stone was recently asked to present on it during a statewide conference.

Associate Dean Asha Rangappa ’00, who oversees the Admissions and Financial Aid Departments, led the charge for this increased digital presence in order to communicate with students through the channels they use the most.

“The financial aid landscape—particularly in the area of federal loans—is complex, tricky, and constantly changing,” said Rangappa. “The blog allows us to explain what students need to know in layman’s terms, while also being able to link to related regulations, articles, and forms at the click of a mouse.”

Together, Rangappa said the online and in-person programs are responding to a need for more guidance and information to help students navigate their finances from their 1L year until after graduation. And based on the results, it is clear the strategy is paying off.

“So far, all of our individual loan counseling and financial planning sessions have been filled up, and we even have a waiting list—the response has been tremendous,” said Rangappa.

Given the success they have seen so far, Stone said the financial aid department is eager to build on the work that has been done by continuing the conversation on smart budgeting and borrowing in today’s economy.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our students are making the best decisions while they are enrolled and after they graduate regarding their finances and their student loans,” Stone said. “It’s important that we ensure that students are the savviest financial aid consumers they can be.”