Gold Star Award

NASFAA's Gold Star Award recognizes innovative ideas in the financial aid arena at any level, targeted toward any constituency. This award is open to individuals working at NASFAA member institutions; member institutions; regional associations; and state associations. The Gold Star Award honors up to three ideas each year.

2021 Gold Star Award Winner

West Governors UniversityWestern Governors University – Responsible Borrowing Initiatives

Project Objective

Responsible borrowing at WGU focuses on helping students understand loans and encouraging them to borrow only what they need. All students who apply for financial aid receive a personalized Financial Aid Plan, with a Student Loan Scenario Calculator, which recommends that students borrow only their "unmet direct costs"-tuition and fees minus any grants or scholarships. The personalized plan includes information about cost of attending WGU as well as the impact of loan borrowing on the student's ability to repay.

Executive Summary

WGU's Responsible Borrowing Initiatives (RBI) have successfully lowered debt for students. Through a set of tools that provide students with a personalized look at their own debt outlook, RBI has empowered students to make data-driven decisions that have substantially reduced student borrowing on both direct (tuition and fees) and indirect (living expenses) costs. In 2013, the year RBI launched, 65% of students accepted the lower loan levels recommended by their personalized loan calculator, with 3% borrowing even less than recommended and 10% declining loans altogether. That success has continued and has seen WGU's already-low borrowing and default rates fall dramatically-the most recent cohort default rate of 4.1% is less than half the national 9.7%, and debt at graduation among undergrads who borrow is only about $14,000, compared with about $30,000 nationally. With the launch of the Student Loan Scenario calculator in 2019, students know exactly what they need to do to successfully pay off their loans in a timely efficient manner. All these efforts-combined with low tuition to begin with and post-graduation salary outcomes that outpace the national average-bring success to students who can focus on the accomplishment of finishing a workforce-relevant degree rather than worry about the burden of loans it took them to achieve.

Past Gold Star Award Winners

Publication Date: 6/24/2021

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