2012 Year in Review – SUNY launches the Smart Track Campaign

Vice President Joe Biden holds a meeting on transparency in college costs with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and nine other college presidents, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 5, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

As we enter the new year, we thought we’d share some of the SUNY news you may have missed during 2012.

In September, SUNY launched the “SUNY Smart Track Campaign” – an innovative new model combining several tools to combat student debt through educating students and families on the cost of college and how financial aid works.

This new initiative is the most proactive and comprehensive model by any university system in the nation meant to address the dual concerns of crushing student debt and lack of transparency in college costs and financial aid.  It combines 5 tools and services to meet student financial service needs:

  • New SUNY Award Letter – As the first to adopt the federal Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, SUNY has developed a standard format for presenting financial aid offerings at a campus while also displaying campus-specific graduation rates, default rates, and the median student loan debt of the campus’ students. The new SUNY award letter will incorporate this information and enable students and their families to easily compare colleges and make informed decisions on loan borrowing.
  • Student Loan Service Center Expansion – Currently used exclusively by SUNY’s state-operated campuses, the SUNY Student Loan Service Center provides Perkins Loan servicing for students and their families. The Center will be expanded to serve all SUNY campuses and provide additional services to support Smart Track.
  • Early Engagement – SUNY has partnered with the U.S. Department of Education to develop a data-driven early-warning initiative that will use SUNY enrollment and federal student loan data to identify the root causes of loan default, enabling campuses to “flag” students who possess a high risk.  Campus personnel will use the system to “flag” high risk students and engage them from the moment they take out a loan through graduation. Additional services for these students will include information on responsible borrowing and a connection with a web-based learning center with loan payment estimators and other useful tools for managing finances.
  • SUNY Smart Track Online Resources – SUNY’s financial aid resources will be made available at a central online hub that will be a one-stop resource for borrowers. Financial aid experts will host online chats via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to answer questions and offer advice to students and families they move through the financial aid process, and additional financial literacy tools and services will be made available.
  • Net Price Calculator – Launched last year by SUNY, the system’s Net Price Calculator enables prospective students to calculate the net costs of the attendance at any SUNY school by providing tuition, room and board costs, and fees for all campuses. The calculator also allows campuses to customize the tool for greater transparency.

The Smart Track Campaign was passed by the Board of Trustees in a resolution.  It will be carried out this academic year through six pilot institutions – UAlbany, SUNY Fredonia, Niagara County Community College, Purchase College, Schenectady County Community College, and SUNY Ulster – with a charge for all 64 campuses to adopt this model for Fall 2013.

The launch of the Smart Track Campaign came on the heels of Chancellor Zimpher meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden to announce the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet initiative.

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Author: Emily Schwartz

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