News & Events / In other states, some schools have found creative ways to forgive debt and help students return

In other states, some schools have found creative ways to forgive debt and help students return

Published Nov 11, 2021

By Megan Pauly, VPM NPR News

Over the past year, VPM News has been looking into a hidden type of debt affecting thousands of Virginia college students. It’s not federal student loans, which dominates most of the headlines. It’s money owed directly to institutions, called direct-to-school debt.

In VPM’s series Dreams Deferred, they have been exploring how this is creating hardships for students, making it difficult for them to complete their degrees and advance their careers. In this article, they unpacked some solutions that schools in other states have put in place to help students with direct-to-school debt go back to school.

The Warrior Way Back program has inspired schools and organizations in other states.

Leanne Davis, associate director of research and policy for the Institute for Higher Education Policy, researched the program and wrote about it. She also created an online calculator tool to help other institutions use the same calculation Wayne State used in starting their debt forgiveness program.

“To build the calculator, we based it off of the idea of a mortgage calculator, and that you want to go online and you want to be able to manipulate this tool and see the range of possibilities,” Davis said. “The user can download the calculations, they can print it out so that they can take it to a meeting at their institution and share.”

Not only does it make financial sense to many schools, Davis said, but it takes a holistic approach to ensure students are set up to succeed from the start.

“It wasn’t just a program that was focused on forgiving this debt and getting students back into the institution,” Davis said. “They were able to provide other types of supports that the students really needed in order to be successful, to ensure that they stayed enrolled, that they’re able to complete their degrees, and that they’re really completing credentials of value.”

Read the full article at VPM