It’s well-known that college students’ personal budgets are tight, and many college students struggle to manage their personal finances. Those financial woes can be stressful, with as many as 70 percent of college students nationwide reporting that financial stress negatively affects their studies. It can even impact whether students choose to continue their education.
To help address the issue and support students’ financial health, the university has launched a new Financial Wellness Center. This service is offered collaboratively by the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships and the Lundquist College of Business, and it provides virtual one-on-one peer financial coaching to students from all across campus.
Additional services offered by the center include primarily student-led workshops teaching the big five areas of holistic financial wellness: borrowing, earning, spending, saving and investing, and protecting.
Peer financial coach Rameen Ali, a senior majoring in advertising, said that she hopes the center becomes an easy-access hub for students to access financial information, helping them succeed both in their college years and after.
“Financial wellness is a tough subject to discuss around others,” she continued, “as a PFC [peer financial coach] I hope that students are able to feel comfortable coming to us for help on their journey to a strong understanding to what financial wellness is.”
Made possible in part by a gift from Dave and Nancy Petrone, the UO Financial Wellness Center evolved from Financial Flight Plan, the Financial Wellness Center’s predecessor that was operated by financial aid counselors from the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, under the Student Services and Enrollment Management office.
“The Financial Flight Plan has been a successful program for years thanks to the leadership of Jim Brooks, associate vice president and director of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, and Roger Thompson, vice president for Student Services and Enrollment Management,” said assistant director of financial wellness Gilbert Rogers. “We are thrilled to have the new partnership with the Lundquist College of Business—thanks to the generosity of the Petrones—that will surely help us enhance programing for all University of Oregon students.”
Rogers added that the new model for the Financial Wellness Center is different from any other institution.
“Some universities have used only business school students to offer peer financial coaching,” he said. “We have history majors, psychology majors, sociology majors—a really diverse group.”
That diversity helps students from all across campus form peer relationships with their financial mentor.
“That peer model is extremely important,” Rogers said.
In total, a team of 20 peer financial coaches, with four devoted to student engagement through social media, were trained in financial wellness for up to six weeks. When hiring from a field of more than 70 applicants, the center drew from students with diverse backgrounds, including women who are traditionally under-represented in the client-facing financial services industry.
Being a business student is not required to become a coach. Nevertheless, each applicant had to demonstrate personal experience, interest, or background with financial well-being.
For faculty expertise, the center maintains a close working relationship with the Lundquist College of Business, including with faculty liaison Stephanie Peel, a professor of practice in the School of Accounting and George E. Porter Accounting Faculty Fellow.
“Personal financial wellness is not being addressed in high school. It’s not being addressed in college courses, and it’s such an important life skill,” Peel said. “Whatever success looks like to each individual student, it requires having a healthy relationship with their financial well-being.”
Since the services of the center are optional for students, both Peel and Gilbert said it’s crucial to develop and maintain strategic relationships with campus organizations like athletics, housing, student clubs, and more.
“Having these partnerships where we have coaches that are embedded, those students who get paired up with different organizations can offer workshops in those spaces,” Peel said.
Workshops and financial wellness topics covered by the center include responsible borrowing, credit management, and student loan repayment. Both Gilbert and Peel said in the future, they hope to offer nationally-accredited certification for students working as peer financial coaches and for students who take advantage of services offered.
“A sincere thank you to Dave and Nancy Petrone and others who supported the creation of the Financial Wellness Center,” said Peel. “Their investments are making a direct impact on students and helping them to thrive and succeed.”
An installment of the college's digital speaker series saw Peel, Rogers, and two student peer financial coaches share how the program is fostering a community of financially capable students.
—Will Kennedy, Lundquist College Communications