For the last several weeks, first-year students who have taken out student loans were asked to attend a student debt seminar to learn more about their loans.
Deana Wennihan has been the student loan repayment coordinator for Missouri Western for 18 years and has been putting on the student loan and debt seminar for nearly a decade. The presentation involves a budget worksheet for students to keep, videos and some common facts that Wennihan has discovered over the years that most students don’t know.
“My whole goal is to encourage them and inspire them,” Wennihan said. “I want them to do everything wisely and get their education and just be prepared for the real world.”
The students were sent a mass email with details about the seminar when the school year began and were given the chance to sign up for whenever they wanted. Each year, Wennihan and her coworkers have to update the presentation due to changing interest rates and to try to find new ways to help students understand their loans.
“I didn’t realize how long it would take me to pay off my student loans,” freshman Grace Kappler said. “Being at the seminar helped me understand a lot of the little things that I hadn’t taken into consideration about my loans. I’m honestly kind of glad that we had to go.”
During the seminar, Wennihan discussed many topics, including interest rates, subsidized and unsubsidized loans, budget plans, loan collectors and when to apply for loans and scholarships. Wennihan says that these are facts that most students don’t have a lot of knowledge on before they start accepting loans.
“It became very apparent to me and my boss that we need to be more proactive, not reactive,” Wennihan said. “We need to educate them on what they’re getting into. I think that’s the number one thing. We want them to be fully aware. They don’t understand the importance of student loans and that they could be hurting themselves.”
“I learned a lot of things at the debt seminar,” freshman Eli Luna said. “I learned about the different kinds of loans and how they’ll affect me. It kind of terrified me. It’s a reality check of the near future and just how much debt some of us will be in. I wish she would’ve gone in more detail about certain subjects, but overall it was a good presentation.”
The debt seminar is held every year, and Wennihan wants students to know that they are always welcomed to call or email the Financial Aid Office if they have any questions.
“Knowing that we’re making a difference, that’s what matters to me,” Wennihan said. “We’re all in the same boat. We’re all a Western family. We need to be together, not separate. We need to learn to help each other.”