Friday, May 4

Promising Too Much: College Bound Aid

According to a news release, the Consumer Bankers Association (CBA) launched "a new financial literacy Web site to help raise awareness of the various loan and aid programs and to promote financial literacy among college bound students." The CBA, which was founded in 1919 in Arlington, Va., provides leadership, education, research and federal representation on retail banking issues such as privacy, fair lending, and consumer protection legislation/regulation.

The site, College Bound Aid, has merit and I don't want to diminish it, but the release miscommunicates the intent, in my opinion. The emphasis of the site is not financial literacy as much as it is about the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). FFELP is a public-private partnership in which private, nonprofit and state-based lenders make federally guaranteed student loans to students and parents.

Right on the site, it states that College Bound Aid is "an informational resource designed to raise awareness and promote understanding of the financial aid available to students and their families through the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). It is not a site intended to guide students to grants."

So why does the release quote CBA President Joe Belew, calling the site "a primer on the maze of programs and terminologies in this complex field," and claim to be a sound overview of how to think about the financial aspects of preparing for college? Sure, there is some of that, but even the structural organization of the site suggests that it is really about FFELP and related loans.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with launching a site that promotes FFELP (if you're looking for college aid, it might be worth consideration). However, the CBA would have been better off announcing that than convoluting its message and promising too much in the release. At best, it buries an opportunity to promote FFELP. At worst, it looks disingenuous.

The lesson here is to not overextend your organization's news by making it something bigger than it is. You never know with the media; the news you have might be just enough without any "public relations padding" needed.




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