President Boone takes on initiative to lower student debt

By Christy Ulmet
Trevecca’s president is unveiling a new plan that he hopes will allow students to work in exchange for part of their tuition.
Dan Boone’s dream of allowing students to work for money that will reduce their student debt is in the be-ginning stages with the formation of a task force and plans to pilot some form of the program next fall.
“I resolve to find a way to reduce the debt of graduating students at Trevecca while simultaneously reducing the growing cost of unfunded aid to students,” Boone recently wrote on his personal blog.
The idea is that students will take a job either on or off campus that will pay them with a “labor grant” for their education costs.The average 2014 Trevecca graduate has nearly $22,000 in student loan debt. Boone projects his idea could reduce that number to closer to $16,000.
Paying Their Way 
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The average student debt among Trevecca graduates is increasing.

While he was at Trevecca, Boone worked 30 hours a week to help get himself through college, as he often reminds students. He’s a big supporter of students working in order to pay their way through college, so he’s implementing a plan that will help prepare students for future careers in the workplace while also helping them pay for college.

The problem is two-fold, Boone said. And reducing debt isn’t the only goal for this program. 
“The business world has attacked universities about lack of preparation to graduates seeking jobs,” Boone said.
Students will receive a work transcript alongside their grade transcript, which will detail the types of jobs they worked, as well as their performance grades and evaluations from their employers. This program will help studentsin the long run. Boone hopes that employers will decide to hire many of their workers right out of college through their established connections.
Boone started a task force, which is chaired by Ryan Jolley, Abba Java coffee shop manager, in order to help implement the plan by next fall for incoming sophomores. The class will serve as a test group for the program, which was inspired by Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.
How the Plan will Work
When students begin their sophomore year, they will be given the opportunity to work around 10 hours a week at an employer that partners with Trevecca. The majority of the money students make will go into their financial accounts, and what’s leftover will be given to them as pocket change for gas, social events, etc.
Boone has no firm commitments from outside businesses, but said since his blog post he has heard from several Trevecca alumni in Nashville who are interested in partnering with the university to create jobs for students. 
Regular on-campus jobs and work-study opportunities, separate from the program, won’t completely disappear,but they might change to accommodate the new program. Trevecca currently pays approximately $637,000 per year to its student workers, $200,000 of which is given by the government for the work-study program.
Eddie White, director of financial aid, hopes to bring this number down by encouraging alumni and friends to consider giving to Trevecca students in their estate plans, wills, or gifts to the university.
”It would be great if as much of the labor grants could be alumni-funded as possible,” White said. “That could help take pressure off the university.”
Allowing students to work with the labor grant for three years of their time in college will earn them an extra $3,000 to $4,000 a year, which will be put directly towards their schooling, Boone said. This will bring their overall student debt down.
If alumni give more money to the upperclassmen, it will decrease the amount of money financial aid will need to give. This will allow the incoming freshmen to receive higher financial awards, which Boone hopes will look attractive to prospective students. For Tennessee students, who will soon be able to attend community college for free, these financial awards might draw them to Trevecca.
A Group Effort
White, who is a part of the task force for the program, offered his insight from the financial side.
“This program is still in the embryo stage,” White said. “For this succeed, the campus as a whole will have to buy into it. ”On-campus employers are encouraged to hire students based on the labor grant, and they will need to do more work than they have with work-study students.
Employers will need to take regular evaluations of their student employees, as well as serve as mentors for the students.

This article originally appeared in the January 2015 TrevEchoes.

 

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