For institutions, WhichWay offers a wealth of reporting information that makes usage tracking and ROI evaluation easy and transparent. “WhichWay uses data to answer the big questions – not just what happened but why it happened. I call it the secret sauce of WhichWay,” John says. “It might not be as good as my grandmother’s favorite spaghetti sauce, but it makes data easy to swallow – even nutritious, if it helps you build a strong student body.”
We asked John about some specific issues WhichWay could help address. He believes it can be an effective complement to reactive default prevention. “I think it does a great job of providing a proactive, holistic strategy,” he says. “It delivers a clear message that managing finances is as important as anything you’ll learn in college. Students can avoid these traps and be able to pay back loans. These lessons are as vital to their economic health as learning about safety risks is vital to their physical health.”
“We teach students to be wary of strangers, and look both ways when crossing the street, but we don’t teach them about financial literacy,” he continues. “That’s like putting them behind the wheel of a car without teaching them how to drive. Money problems can inflict depression, homelessness, drive wedges in families. If students get trapped in financial problems, they may drop out of school. If it happens after they leave, it may cause default. When this happens, they may second-guess the value of the tuition they paid, jeopardizing future contributions to their alma mater.”
He also notes that retention is a mutual concern of many stakeholders in higher ed, from accrediting agencies to institutions to families and students. “Higher ed is getting more competitive and you have to fight to maintain market position,” he points out. “Enrollment managers are seeking new ways to manage rising costs. Students are more price conscious, employers are demanding more skills, and colleges that don’t have a retention plan will be left in the dust.”
“When institutions want to help their students develop soft skills like money management, their first instinct is a printed item or website. That’s not ideal. What they need is a way to provide access to the nuts-and-bolts details that students need, in a way that is memorable and effective, which is what WhichWay does well,” he says.
The mandatory vs. optional subject is a hot topic with many of our partner institutions, so we asked John for his take on that as well. “I think you should give them the opportunity to try it out and see what works best for them,” he says. “Perhaps a fun advertising campaign with exciting prizes would attract students — without the dreaded mandatory designation. In the end, I think WhichWay has the potential to be a relevant and useful app for any college student, taking users on the safe road from piggy bank to pay stub and beyond.”
Whether institutions choose to require or simply encourage students to use WhichWay, John thinks the modular content and smartphone platform create an ideal delivery system. “I have had first-hand experience using the app, and it puts everything great about the program in the palm of your hand,” he says. “I’m an instructor, so I know the importance of knowing your audience. WhichWay uses the best method to reach the college age group. Students use their phone to tap their next Starbucks. They would be just as comfortable ‘tapping’ into a bright, engaging presentation that shows how to manage their budget. It’s about as far from a boring classroom lecture as you can get.”
John credits the Expert Advisory Board for bringing together people who are passionate about contributing to the conversation about the challenges confronting institutions and their students. “With the opportunity to chat face-to-face and online with other colleagues, I have learned so much and I have been able to take that back to my shop,” he says. “What better way to get buy-in than to say another institution is doing this and here is the success they are having? Sometimes we are our own worst enemies in coming up with ideas. If you can collaborate with others, all the better. I’ve appreciated being included in the conversation.”
Click here to read Part One of this interview. To learn more about WhichWay, visit https://www.studentconnections.org/solutions/whichway/.