Shaw University, the first HBCU in the South, received the 2012 Excellence in Debt Management Award from USA Funds, the university announced today. Shaw was recognized for offering creative and effective debt management and financial literacy programs that helped Shaw students reduce student loan debt and limit loan defaults. The award includes a $15,000 USA Funds grant to support student scholarships at the university.

“With 97 percent of our students receiving some form of financial aid, it is vital that we not only graduate our students with a high-quality education, but we also ensure that they graduate with the skills and knowledge to be fiscally responsible,” said Shaw University President Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy. “This award is a tremendous testament to the hard work and dedication of our financial aid staff and an acknowledgement of their continuous efforts to help our students graduate with less debt and live financially sound.”

The university was recognized for initiating and implementing innovative techniques that helped reduce its default rate and increase financial knowledge among its students. Financial aid officers at the university conducted a survey during freshman orientation to identify students who were at risk of dropping out of school and in need of academic or social intervention. Based on the survey results, the university launched a pilot mentoring program. In conjunction with that program, the university also presented 27 financial literacy and financial aid workshops during the past academic school year to 625 students. The university also conducts face-to-face exit counseling sessions for graduating seniors to provide information about their lenders, various repayment options and information about the amount of debt that they have incurred while in school.

In addition, following graduation, the university conducts aggressive communication campaigns to former students who have fallen behind in the repayment of their student loans. These efforts include contacting student loan borrowers, beginning when a former student is more than 30 days past due on a student loan payment, and conducting a monthly telephone blitz to reach borrowers whose loan payments are more than 180 days past due. As a result of these activities, Shaw’s 2010 draft cohort default rate fell to 13.2 percent, down from its official 2009 rate of 22.6 percent.

USA Funds staff and representatives of the previous year’s debt management excellence award-winning colleges and universities selected the award recipients, based on their programs’ measurable results, creativity, scope, staff and faculty involvement, and cost-effectiveness. Since 2004 USA Funds has presented its Excellence in Debt Management Awards annually to highlight outstanding campus debt management and financial literacy programs and to disseminate to other postsecondary institutions best practices in debt management and student loan default prevention.