McPherson College has partnered with RTI International on an in-depth study and analysis of its pioneering Student Debt Project, one of the key initiatives supported by the $500 million double-match estate commitment recently announced by the college. The research project will advance the Student Debt Project and position McPherson College to expand its impact.
RTI International is an independent, nonprofit research institute with a staff of 6,000 people working in more than 90 countries, with headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. RTI will examine the key features of the college’s Student Debt Project and its outcomes to date, resulting in a white paper that will outline potential opportunities and guide the college’s efforts to refine the model for both McPherson College and other institutions.
“We know that the Student Debt Project is having a positive impact on McPherson College students by engaging them in financial literacy mentoring,” President Michael Schneider said. “Our students are making substantial progress toward decreasing and, in some cases, eliminating student debt at graduation. RTI will provide an important independent analysis while at the same time suggesting ways that our Student Debt Project can benefit students beyond McPherson College.”
The college hopes to build on its experience and expand its work toward decreasing and eliminating college debt by creating a National Center on Student Debt Reduction. RTI will recommend activities to enhance the Student Debt Project at McPherson College while positioning the college to take a more significant national leadership role in lowering student debt.
In the five years since the project began, McPherson College has incrementally decreased its average student debt at graduation, achieving one of the lowest averages among four-year colleges and universities in Kansas. At the start of this academic year, half of all students were participating in the project. The project combines financial literacy education, work experience, and mentorship with matching funds in a pay-as-you-go program. In addition to the benefits students receive, the college sees greater student retention of those who participate in the program.
“The Student Debt Project impacts students after graduation by helping decrease the amount of money they could be paying into their 20s, 30s, and beyond,” said Taylor Bohannon, a junior from Belle Plain, Kan. “The financial match for every payment you make is a huge help that adds up over time.”
According to President Schneider, McPherson College is committed to minimizing student reliance on loans. “The project is an idea that evolved from our Community by Design strategic plan, and it is making education affordable without unnecessary debt. We are grateful that the recent commitment made to the college’s endowment will ensure that this program continues for future generations of students.”
To date, the college has raised close to $150 million of the $250 million needed to secure the $500 million match, including a $50 million commitment from Californian philanthropists Melanie and Richard Lundquist. To learn more about the $500 million two-for-one match applied to endowment donations and estate gift commitments made to McPherson College, visit www.mcpherson.edu/500match.