Today’s colleges have a unique opportunity to play a huge role in their students’ financial wellbeing as tuition costs increase, state budget cuts occur, the economy slowly recovers, and students invest in college (their first individual money expenditure in their lives)–they can provide effective financial literacy.
Scarlet and Gray Financial, housed within the Student Wellness Center in the Office of Student Life at Ohio State University, is running one of the most innovative financial literacy programs in the country using peer-to-peer coaching. Their first year student success series program is on pace to reach 4,000 students this year compared to 1,800 students last year with the help of social media and word of mouth.
With a deep belief that financial literacy is integral to a student’s holistic overall wellbeing, Ohio State’s Office of Student Wellness partnered with the College of Education and Human Ecology to give students access to financial peer-coaches to teach them the basics of budgeting, the facts about credit card debt, a credit score’s importance, and student debt prevention from one student to another.
According to current Ohio student Ryan Gallof, “the majority of students who walk in have never seen this knowledge. The fact that we introduce them to basic financial literacy has a huge impact.” Gallof is a trained student coach by Scarlet and Financial and is seeing a significant difference in the way the program’s students interact with their finances.
“It just means a lot more when one student explains it to another since they’re in the same period of their life,” said Kathleen Regalis, who is currently helping run the program as a graduate assistant. This semester they have 30 peer coaches helping on a one-on-one basis and 15 interns going out to the students giving presentations on a wide range of financial topics.
Best of all, students have the support and encouragement to become more financially literate from a vast number of offices on campus: the Financial Wellness Advisory Board including Student Financial Aid, Student Advocacy, Student Legal Services, the Student Wellness Center, and the Office of Outreach and Engagement.
There are students who come into college having signed promissory notes that they do not understand. They do not know the ticket price of their education for the year, the interest rates of their loans, or whether those loans are private or federal. Regalis put it this way,“The biggest problem is that students don’t know what they’re getting themselves into.” Scarlet and financial is trying to bridge that financial literacy education gap.