Central Kansas College Aiming To Eliminate Student Loan Debt

A Central Kansas college is working to help its students stay out of debt once they graduate.

“The narrative in the media is that college is getting really expensive,” said McPherson College President Michael Schneider. “One of the ways, at least, that private colleges have worked to combat that is bigger scholarships. That’s created this phenomenon of tuition discounting. So, there’s this big debate. How big should the scholarships be? How much should it cost? We tend to believe parents and students and families are interested in debt. They’re really interested in, how do I minimize my debt?”

The debt-reduction program at McPherson College is multifaceted.

“Students set a target,” said Schneider. “Do you want to graduate debt-free? What’s your debt range? The second piece is around a financial literacy program, what we’re finding is students are coming in, they don’t have any idea how to manage a budget and student loans are the easiest kind of debt to get, you just sign up and it arrives. Students have this kind of idea of a layaway mentality where, I’ll pay for it later. The third piece is, we’ll match dollars that they make and apply toward their student account. They get jobs and internships to support paying down their accounts at McPherson College and we’ll match that.”

McPherson College will match earnings applied to a student account at 25 cents per dollar. The students also have mentors to help them navigate how much debt to take on. This is to alleviate a problem Schneider has seen in recent years.

“Students take out more debt than they actually need to pay their bill,” said Schneider. “In any given year at McPherson College, they’ll take in excess of 40 percent more debt than they actually need. Why are they doing that? Well, it’s easy to get. At some point, they’re going to have to pay it back.”

McPherson College is hopeful that the project will make it possible for a significant number of its students to afford a college education, and to change the paradigm of what is really at issue in paying for a college education. Students interested in learning more about the project can go to the college website at: https://www.mcpherson.edu/debtproject/.