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Smart Track Early Outcomes & Best Practices

Smart Track Early Outcomes

Financial Literacy

Research shows that Financial Literacy promotes student success and overall financial wellness. Research also shows that a large percentage of incoming college students lack financial management skills which causes anxiety and distress in regards to their ability to pay current and future college costs.

Best Practice:

Campuses should promote the availability of free personalized financial literacy services and where appropriate, should implement "Soft" requirements during the enrollment and financial aid application process to encourage student participation (e.g. during a "Freshman Orientation Seminar", Academic Appeal Process, and Private/Alternative Loan Certification Process).

It is also important for campuses to support financial literacy/debt awareness campaigns since research shows that loan borrowing and debt transparency can result in reduced student debt and improved financial management skills for students and families.

Early Intervention and Identification for Students Who Withdraw

Students often find out late in the process that dropping a course or withdrawing completely impacts financial aid for the current term or for subsequent terms. 

Best practice - withdrawal process:

Starting the withdrawal process with the financial aid office first is recommended as a best practice.  Students who speak with a financial aid officer prior to speaking with an academic advisor and before withdrawing from a course or for a term may have a better understanding of the impact on their financial aid, may rethink their decision to withdraw and may seek assistance to help them succeed. 

Ensure academic advisors are aware of a possible impact on financial aid for financial aid recipients.  Academic Advisors do not need to be experts in financial aid, but should advise students that if they are a financial aid recipient, they should speak with the financial aid office before selecting or changing courses - to ensure the academic choice they make does not impact their eligibility. Financial aid can train advisors who coach students about course and major selection to understand Federal and State administered financial aid eligibility requirements.

Best Practice - Early Identification:  

Students, who withdraw, whether formally or informally, are at risk for not completing their degree, defaulting on student loans and not becoming successful in their academic and career pursuits.  Early identification of students who informally withdraw or intend to withdraw is key in helping these students reengage at a campus, helping them to acclimate to their campus environment and preventing them from becoming delinquent on student loans, ultimately reducing the risk for default.

Student Billing

Students and families often find the billing notifications and information unclear.  They are often unsure of the charges presented as they sometimes do not reflect information they felt was shared during the initial process when applying and being accepted by a campus. 

Best Practice:

A standardized student bill is an important next step in the goal of transparency and providing clear and consistent messages to students and families to help them understand what is owed and why.  The process behind the scenes does not need to change, but the presentation to students and families – much like the standard SUNY Smart Track award letter – is an important next step for transparent and clear messages.


Third party providers - Many campuses use third party providers to disburse student credit or refunds.  These providers often offer various options for students to receive these funds. 

Best Practice:

Campuses should periodically review contracts with third party providers to ensure students are receiving the best benefits.  Campuses should also periodically review a sample of students to ensure the process is working and is timely.

Student Refund Communications

The term “refunds” often times refers to the amount of student loan funds left over and made available to the student after all direct costs have been paid to the campus.  This can also be referred to as a “credit” on the student’s account. 

Best Practice:

When notifying the student of the student loan credit it is crucial to counsel the student to ensure they understand the funds are part of their student loan and must be paid back with interest.  It is important for campuses to check letters to students for wording.  The term “refund” can be misleading and misunderstood by the student. 

Gather and Maintain Student and Family Contact Information

Best Practice:

During any point of contact with students and/or their families, administrators and staff should verify contact information as a standard best practice across campus.  Current contact information promotes better communication and can improve student retention, success and ultimately help prevent delinquency and default.

Campuses should review their procedures regarding the email address they require students to use for campus communications.  Keep in mind that once a student leaves campus they may not have access to a campus email address.  How long does your campus maintain a campus email address?  A lost connection with a student may prevent campus staff from reaching out to a student once he or she has withdrawn. Importantly, if a campus email address is the contact information used for a student in the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), it can also impact a student’s repayment of a federal student loan, possibly resulting in delinquency and/or default.

Communicating Future Aid Eligibility to Transfer or Readmitted Students with Poor Academic History

Known disqualification for future semesters was not communicated to student at acceptance:

Example: Student is accepted into college and awarded financial aid for first semester.  Regardless of academic performance for this semester, the student may have no ability to recover GPA or progress to meet criteria for aid for future semester(s).  Financial aid is denied for future semester(s).

Best Practice:

Counseling for students with poor academic history should be very clear regarding future aid before a readmitted or transfer student enrolls. 

Student Financial Aid Services