Fed up with loan exit counseling sessions

Tara O'Neill

If you don’t already know, if you borrow federal student loans then the government requires you to complete an exit counseling session, according to Quinnipiac’s Associate Director of Financial Aid and Loan Coordinator Mary Sola. However, Quinnipiac’s system for these sessions is hugely flawed.

The exit counseling session is intended to prepare students for repayment on their loans, according to an email from Sola. But if that’s the case, why aren’t these sessions more personal? Why don’t we get the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with someone in financial aid to help us work out the details of paying back federal loans rather than in a large group?

Since the average tuition for Quinnipiac is over $50,000 per year, it’s baffling that the university doesn’t require – or even suggest – students sit down one-on-one with someone in financial aid and discuss their options or create possible realistic repayment plans. If students have to meet with their advisors to plan out their schedule for each semester, doesn’t it seem feasible that they should meet with someone in financial aid to discuss their post-graduation financial options?

Beyond not having more consistent financial advice and guidance throughout our time at Quinnipiac, it bothers me that the sessions they hold for loan repayment advice are only held at certain times over certain days. As someone who has extracurriculars, class five days a week and work five days a week, my schedule isn’t very flexible. So, naturally, all the sessions – on the Mount Carmel campus and the North Haven campus – conflict with my either my classes or my work study job.

As I previously mentioned, these sessions should be more personalized. Sure, maybe the university cannot seem to allocate the proper resources for all of its students – or even just those with federal loans – to receive financial guidance throughout their four years at this university. But if students can only attend one mandatory session during their senior year, it seems likely that the university could work something out so that the students who want the help should be able to sit down and have an in-person, one-on-one conversation with someone in financial aid.

These sessions are open to however many students at a time, and I couldn’t imagine myself feeling comfortable asking personal financial-related questions in front of large groups of people. And I have quite a significant amount of questions and, as of right now, I have no idea how I’m going to get answers – other than a pathetic Google search that will probably just confuse me even more.

Ultimately, these loan counseling sessions seem forced and impersonal. I don’t come from a family with a significant amount of money and I don’t have any current job offers, prospects or even one single interview for a job after I graduate. I’m horrified. Graduation means repaying loans that I don’t have money to repay at the moment. And I don’t know what I can do about that. But maybe I would have a better idea if the financial office was more helpful about the whole situation.

UPDATE: This op-ed appeared in print in issue 21, which was distributed on March 30. The writer received an email from Mary Sola on March 30 at 4:40 p.m. Since the email was not received prior to the issue being sent to the printer, the print version does not reflect that an email response was received.