During the first stage of the CEFC Student Loan Debt Repayment program, CEFC contracted with a national consumer legal advocacy group with expertise in student loan law to develop a student loan repayment training program and counseling protocol. Nearly 400 counselors were trained to diagnose individual repayment challenges and help implement solutions for borrowers overwhelmed with student loan debt.
Once it became apparent that this effort required more follow-up, oversight and quality control with the trainees and their employers, CEFC implemented the second stage of the program to combine the training with program reporting and quality control. Completion of the second stage made it clear that an even more comprehensive approach would lead to better results.
In early 2013, CEFC implemented a third stage, which provided intensive counselor training in both the technical aspects of distressed student loans and behavior-change counseling techniques. The program also incorporated intensive post-counseling borrower follow-up, monitoring implementation of program protocol and third-party evaluation.
During program development, CEFC consulted with evaluation experts from the Public Policy Research Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis for program evaluation design and services.
Program training and counseling materials were developed and provided under contract by a national consumer legal advocacy group with expertise in student loan law and the Counseling and Family Therapy Department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In addition, each financial counseling provider was paired with a legal services provider so that the borrowers who needed legal help could be referred to a lawyer who possessed expertise in student loan debt repayment.
In the third stage of the program, CEFC contracted with three first-rate providers of general financial and credit counseling and education services. Each of these providers contracted with a legal services partner to fully implement the program protocol.
The program has several innovations that set it apart from the way that such financial and credit counseling services have been delivered historically, including:
- An emphasis on the need for scheduled follow-up counseling sessions.
- A combined emphasis on diagnosis, education, and behavior-change elements.
- A contractual relationship with a legal service provider that has expertise in student loan consultation.
- Close monitoring for implementing program protocol for quality control.
- Professional third-party evaluation.
CEFC provided monthly base and performance-based stipends to the three partnered service providers during the third stage of the enterprise. Starting January 1, 2014, CEFC and two of these direct providers and their respective legal services partners have contracted to continue the program for 12 additional months.