Among its services, the Office of Financial Aid offers free, one-on-one counseling available at any time.
Recent graduates of osteopathic medical schools nationwide have mean debt level of almost $230,000, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. What’s more, an April 2015 TG Research Report on the effectiveness of student loan entrance counseling found that overborrowing is a serious issue; it can increase the borrower’s loan burdens, financial strain, and odds of default. The report named two main factors for overborrowing: the unpredictability of the future, and inexperience on the part of the borrower—which could lead to poor borrowing decisions and the inability to manage the outcomes of those decisions.
As PCOM’s Debt Management Counselor, Grace Taylor is working to prevent overborrowing among PCOM’s students. “Our students understand that they have to borrow money to go to medical school,” she says. “But most of our students only understand bits and pieces of the larger picture. What they know is only half-true.”
To that end, the Financial Aid staff has enhanced its efforts to form a more robust education campaign over the past year, to better inform students about smart borrowing habits by offering information and tactics to help students manage their money more effectively.
In addition to mandatory entrance and exit counseling for students, the office holds table topics throughout the academic year, where students can get information and have questions answered about saving money, setting up a budget, and public service loan forgiveness. In addition, Taylor hosts interactive webinars on financial topics each term on Blackboard. During winter and spring 2016, the office continued its financial literacy lecture series on topics such as home buying, loan repayment strategies, and financial planning. And, for the first time in August 2015, the Financial Aid Office hosted a new student reception to introduce incoming students to the concept of overborrowing and the value of budgeting. Taylor says the financial literacy program will continue to develop more events and resources during the 2016-17 academic year.
“The most effective form of financial education is one-on-one counseling, and that is available to all students, at any time,” Taylor explains. She also travels to the Georgia campus for a week each term, to build relationships with students on both campuses. Students can speak with Taylor in person, over the phone, or via video messaging about issues related to financial aid, but more importantly, about debt and budget management.
“All of this is a free service we provide, as part of each student’s educational experience here at PCOM,” says Taylor. “We want to give students the information and tools they need to make informed decisions about their money, and hopefully leave here with a better understanding of what their finances will look like once they have to start paying back those loans.”
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has trained more than 15,000 highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach, treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM offers the doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of pharmacy and doctor of psychology degrees and graduate programs in mental health counseling, school psychology, physician assistant studies, forensic medicine, organizational development and leadership, and biomedical sciences. Our students learn the importance of health promotion, education and service to the community and, through PCOM’s Healthcare Centers, provide care to the medically underserved populations in inner city and rural locations.
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