By Allura Morneau, Staff Reporter

Event Organizer Zach Faulkner (photo courtesy of Allura Morneau)

Event Organizer Zach Faulkner (photo courtesy of Allura Morneau)

Recently a workshop was hosted by PAID, a program through the Financial Aid Department, at Mantor Library at the University of Maine at Farmington recently, but only three students chose to participate.

The “Dealing with Debt After College Workshop” was hosted by Pier Financial Aid Assistants Zach Faulkner and Siiri Stinson and sponsored by the Higher One Foundation.

Faulkner was disappointed with the low turnout. “The education is the easy part. It’s getting students to come in that’s the hard part. Either they don’t see advertisement of it or they think, ‘I don’t have to worry about my finances now; I’m not a senior’,” said Faulkner “This [workshop] is more geared towards students who are about to graduate, but it’s open to any students. We do have workshops for first year students. We give workshops to freshmen, to seniors, and everything in between. We also present to high schools.”

While it’s possible that attendance was low due to the poor weather and cancelled classes that morning, no students participated in the workshop the previous day. “Poor Siiri,” said Faulkner. “She worked on that whole presentation and no one showed up. At least she got to present it today.”

The workshops offer helpful information a surprising number of students don’t know.  For example, many students are unaware that some of their loans may accrue interest, even while they are still at school.“A lot of [questions] are, ‘Where do I find my loans? How do I pay my loans?’ You’d think students would already know that but I’d say those are the questions we get most often,” said Faulkner.

These workshops are a free service available to students to help them understand their finances so they are not “dealing” with their federal loan debt blindly. “We are trying to increase financial literacy,” said Faulkner. “We want students to know more about their financial situation. When they come into college, for a lot of students, working on finances and getting loans is new to them. I hope, in the future, more students take advantage of us, because we are a free resource.”

Faulkner feels that he is better equipped to work with college and highschool students on financial planning than guidance counselors because he is a student, himself, at UMF. “ I remember in high school guidance counselors and advisors telling me what my finances would be like in college, and thinking, ‘whatever, they’re an adult; they don’t know what I’m going through’,” said Faulkner. “As a high school student and or a freshman in college, it didn’t matter to me. So maybe, with me being a student, other students can relate to me.”

Sarah Stefanik, a senior who is graduating at the end of the Fall 2014 semester, was one of the few students who attended the workshop. “I attended  because I got a letter saying that I needed to do my ‘exit counseling’ and I thought I had to attend the ‘Dealing with Debt after College’ workshop.”

As Stinson explained during her Keynote presentation, “exit counseling” is an online form on NSLDS.ed.gov that needs to be filled out in order to select a payment method. It is necessary for graduation. Stefanik was not completely sure how to fill out the form, and the workshop educated her.

“They helped me understand what the ‘exit counseling’ was and how to use the site,” said Stefanik.

She also said that she would recomend these workshops to other students. “I think it would be a lot of help for people who are education major, especially when it comes to the ‘loan forgiveness programs.’ It was informative; it was to the point. It brought up websites I didn’t know I had to look into,” said Stefanik.

Faulkner would like any students with questions or want assistance with creating a payment plan to please email him at pfa@umf.maine.edu.