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Student Loans and Financial Literacy Go Hand in Hand

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Penn State is addressing the challenges that students face once they complete their education and enter into repayment of student loans by offering financial literacy programs while still enrolled.

This past year, Penn State launched several financial literacy interventions to help students practice good money management through budgeting, prudent credit card use and increased awareness of personal spending habits. Financial literacy programming is a collaborative initiative of the Office of Student Aid, Penn State Outreach and Online Education. Leading this effort is a new Financial Literacy Coordinator, Dr. Daad Rizik. Working with University Libraries and the University Park Undergraduate Association, a new Student Financial Education Center (SFEC) was launched in January. Well trained students majoring in Finance staff the center and serve as peer advisers to students who want to increase their knowledge of money and learn more about management of their student loan debt.

Each year, over 50% of Penn State students borrow education loans. The percentage of graduating seniors with loan debt continues to stand at approximately 66%. Penn State has the largest average student loan debt of all public four-year universities, $35,429 for 2012-13 graduating seniors. At this average loan debt, Penn State graduates will be required to make monthly payments of $388 over ten years. The recommended income to make loan repayment manageable at this debt level is $58,000, more than the starting salary for most new graduates. This disparity contributes significantly to increasingly higher loan default rates.

Financial literacy is a necessary life skill and Penn State has outstanding financial literacy resources. The University continues to search for ways to help students take advantage of available resources and do a better job of managing their finances.


The Importance of Welcoming Students

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At the beginning of each semester, new students participate in Welcome Week activities. These events help students make the transition to the University Park campus.

Welcoming students is a campus-wide endeavor and Penn State has a robust schedule of welcome programs. After students arrive on campus, Welcome Week begins with the President's New Student Convocation. Be a Part from the Start, a pep-rally event hosted by the Lion Ambassadors, introduces students to the history and traditions of Penn State.

Academic units welcome their students at Dean's Meetings and other events designed to encourage students to meet faculty, staff, and returning students. The Penn State Libraries host an Open House event and Student Affairs offices coordinate Arrival Days, Residence Hall Community Events, and Involvement Days.

This past fall there were over 120 events hosted to welcome students to Penn State. Ultimately, the goal of these programs is to support student success as they transition to university life.

eLion Just Got Easier

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A quick look around campus shows that most students now use mobile devices.

eLion now has a new responsive design that will allow users to access the same features as the web version of eLion (eLion.psu.edu) on a variety of mobile devices.

eLion is Penn State's web-based service that provides students, advisers, faculty and parents with secure, real-time access to academic and financial records. The new layout features a more responsive streamlined design and user experience, with menu items listed across the top of the page to provide more screen space for compact viewing areas. On most smaller screens (i.e. cellphones), the navigation bar collapses down to a single button to toggle the menu display. Students and advisers can more easily access eLion to check grades and view the schedule of classes wherever their smartphone or tablet can go.

In addition to making the site design more usable on mobile screens, the eLion site is also more accessible to students and advisers with disabilities. Penn State's standards for accessibility require web pages and applications to be readable by everyone, regardless of physical ability. The eLion pages have been screened to make sure that the content doesn't have accessibility "blockers," or barriers to screen readers that would prevent those who are visually impaired from using the service.

For now, the improvements, which the eLion team began designing in May 2013, will only show up on student and adviser accounts. Faculty, parents, and former students can expect to see the changes in their eLion versions in the future.

For comments and feedback regarding eLion, contact elionfeedback@psu.edu or follow eLion on Twitter @eLionPSU.

Two Win Goldwater Scholarship

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The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program recently announced the complete list of winners for the 2014–2015 academic year. The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship is a distinguished undergraduate scholarship initiative that provides up to $7,500 a year for college sophomores and juniors in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering.

Two students from the Penn State University Park campus were awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for 2014-15. The students are Ryan Henrici and Alexander McMenamin. Ryan Henrici is a Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major with interest in attending either medical or graduate school. Alexander McMenamin is an Immunology and Infectious Disease major and intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Entomology or studies related to population dynamics.

Ruth Mendum, director of Penn State's University Fellowships Office, is proud that the University has two undergraduates receiving a scholarship as prestigious as the Goldwater and also acknowledges Katie Annmarie Legenski, from the Penn State Berks-Lehigh Valley College, as a 2014 Barry Goldwater Honorable Mentions recipient.

Dr. Mendum indicates that, "The Goldwater has historically rewarded students who are capable of creative independent research initiatives early in their careers. Ryan, Alex and Katie will be leaders in solving the difficult and interdisciplinary challenges we face as a global society."

For more information about the Goldwater Scholarship, visit https://goldwater.scholarsapply.org.