As stocks on Wall Street tumble and country’s unemployment rate hovers around 6 percent, University Provost Teresa Sullivan announced in an interview yesterday that she plans to initiate an outreach campaign for University students whose families have suffered financial losses due to the struggling economy.

The goal of the campaign, Sullivan said, is to encourage students to talk with their parents about their family’s financial situation and whether the financial crisis will impact their ability to pay for college and related expenses. Sullivan said the program will aim to inform students how they can apply for financial aid to compensate for any financial losses sustained by their family.

Sullivan, whose own academic research focuses on consumer bankruptcy, said parents often neglect to tell their students about financial problems, which can cause students to drop out of school because they didn’t know to apply for additional aid.

“It’s very important to me that students not fail to come back for the winter term or drop out over the summer, and particularly not to do it without talking to (the Office of) Financial Aid first,” she said.

In conjunction with Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper, Sullivan plans to meet with resident assistants in University residence halls in order to spread the message to students through their RAs.

Sullivan said parents will be contacted, too. She said there is often a stigma surrounding financial aid for parents, and said outreach can assure parents this isn’t the case.

“It’s important for us to get the word out to parents that financial aid is okay,” she stressed. “It isn’t welfare.”

Sullivan said she was also considering implementing a computer program in which a message about talking to family members about financial issues would pop up every time a student logged into a University computer.

She said outreach to students and parents will focus on the weeks before Thanksgiving and spring break, because the two periods are when students will most likely have a chance to speak with their parents.

Not everyone who applies for financial aid would necessarily receive money, Sullivan said. Still, she said it’s important to meet with a financial aid counselor.

“I cant promise that everybody could get money,” she said. “But they should go and talk to a financial aid counselor and see what’s available. We’re going to do everything we can do.”

And in assessing whether they need and qualify for financial aid, students should first consult the Office of Financial Aid, Sullivan added.

“The expert you want to see is on our campus,” she said. “It’s not the banker your mom and dad have used for ten years, because that banker may be a really nice person, but he hasn’t got access to the kind of interest rates that we do.”

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