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Program helps Joliet Junior College students’ loan decisions

Joliet Junior College director financial aid David Seward.  |  TinAkouris~Sun-Times Media

Joliet Junior College director of financial aid David Seward. | Tina Akouris~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 28, 2014 6:03AM



Marcus Bouldin was worried about having to take out a substantial loan to pay for courses at Joliet Junior College.

But under a new program at the college, Bouldin is going to save money with his loan, which has brought him relief and a peace of mind.

The Borrow Smart program was begun in May, and David Seward, JJC’s director of financial aid, said 1,768 students have taken advantage of it so far. JJC’s enrollment is about 16,000 students.

“We have not had one complaint,” Seward said. “Every student who wants (a loan) has to go through the Borrow Smart process.”

Advisors explain the loan process to students and also review a student’s expenses and income.

They also explain the differences between subsidized and unsubsidized loans and interest rates.

Bouldin said his counselor also explained what happens if he defaulted on the loan — something that he was unaware of.

“She explained the step-by-step process of it and the privilege of even getting a loan,” said Bouldin, a Joliet resident who started at JJC in fall 2013. “We went over my expenses, how much financial aid I would receive and what I would need to borrow.”

Seward said Borrow Smart grew out of financial aid advisors wanting to improve the financial literacy of JJC students and to make sure they don’t make poor financial decisions. He said another trigger for starting the program was seeing too many students borrowing money for a community college education.

“We didn’t know how they were getting their information, and we wanted them to be aware of (loan) payments,” Seward said. “Some students were able to decrease their overall loan amount.”

JJC isn’t the only community college in the Chicago area that uses such a program. Seward said Elgin Community College has a similar program, and JJC took that concept, expanded it and put a name on it.

Bouldin said he took an exam before meeting with a financial aid counselor and went over the results with the counselor. It helped Bouldin realize how much money he needed to borrow and how long it would take to pay off the loan.

“When I first did (the exam), I asked for a lot more money and I really didn’t need it,” he said. “If I did (borrow that much), I would have put myself in a (bad) financial situation down the road.”



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