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NORMAL — Students, parents and recent college graduates trying to navigate through the jungle of paying for a college education have a new tool: free online courses under the name of My Money 101.

The financial education program developed by the non-profit organization American Student Assistance is being offered through a partnership with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

“We know the number one reason students drop out of school is because of money,” said Lynne Baker, ISAC managing director of communications.

Getting more information about the financial aid process, what it means to take on debt and how to repay “can make a huge difference in helping them stay in school,” she said.

The money management program can be reached through the “student portal” on ISAC's website, www.isac.org.

“Basically, its goal is to educate college students and alumni on how to take control of their money and manage their money and how to take control of student debt,” said Allesandra Lanza, ASA's director of corporate communications.

My Money 101 and other information available through the student portal is helpful to high school students, too.

In announcing the partnership with ASA, Eric Zarnikow, ISAC's executive director, said, “The program will be a perfect complement to ISAC's direct outreach and one-on-one mentoring focused on helping students and families navigate the entire college-going and financial aid process.”

The portal includes tools for financial aid planning and applying, college and scholarship searching and career and job searching in addition to money management.

Another goal of My Money 101 is to have students recognize that “they need to borrow what they need to borrow. They shouldn't borrow more,” said Bob Cole, ASA's director of state-based initiatives.

My Money 101 consists of various individual sections and people can take as many or as few as they want.

Each module takes about 35 to 45 minutes to complete, Cole said. It includes questions before and after completing the module to measure what has been learned.

Baker said, “We don't want students to get freaked out” when they hear the modules include tests. Neither the tests nor participating in My Money 101 will affect whether students get loans or other assistance, she said.

ASA receives federal fees for administering loans and also receive money from some higher education partners. It is not receiving money from ISAC or the state of Illinois for providing the My Money 101 program, Lansa said.

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Education Reporter

Education Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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