As a student, I can often say that I am stressed out about my finances. It feels as if the bills, rent, and tuition never end. I have a hard time even thinking about the cost of entertainment and eating out with friends. Like many of my peers, I had no idea where all of my money was going. At the University of Cincinnati, we realized that finances greatly impacted all students’ lives. In 2010, according to the National Collegiate Health Assessment, the top three stressors for students were academics, how to handle relationships, and finances. The following year, through the Ohio Student Financial Wellness Survey, we found 74% of students feel so overwhelmed about finances that it is difficult for them to cope with school. As time went on, we started to hear more students talking about how finances were impacting their life. To get the conversations started, the UC Student Wellness Center started to incorporate financial wellness presentations into our existing portfolio of programs.
Getting students to talk about money is very challenging. It can be a very sensitive topic for most, so we decided to create an interactive game, the Game of Life. It is similar to the board game, “Life,” but with more of a financial twist. This game does not require students to discuss their individual financial situation, but it allows them to see how decisions made during game play can have lasting and challenging effects. Over time, our financial efforts expanded to include Peer Financial Coaching, a one-on-one coaching service that allows students to privately meet with a trained student to discuss budgeting, loans, saving for financial goals, understanding credit, and many other topics. Our coaching program is an extension of our Peer Educator’s responsibilities. We also became involved in national financial awareness campaigns creating events on campus during America Saves Week in February and Financial Literacy Awareness Month in April.
Are you trying to create a financial wellness program on your campus? The most important thing is to get students talking about money. Start with passive programming, such as tweeting tips for financial wellness or having students tweet at your office with their favorite money-saving tips to win a prize. Make a few handbills with suggestions on saving money and keep financial wellness resources available on campus. If students on your campus love coming to listen to speakers, bringing in an interactive speaker can be another great way to get the money conversations flowing. To create active presentations for peer educators to present, focus on behavior change through education on budgeting, saving, credit, and general loans. At UC, we host different awareness events, such as painting a piggybank or making a vision board from old magazines. Make sure to partner with key offices on campus like Financial Aid, their resources and partnership are always valuable!
Our financial wellness programming has been evolving over the last few years, and we are always sure to set aside time to reflect and evaluate the programs. During the semester, we have students fill out evaluations at the end of each appointment or program and use that feedback to improve our services.
Keep in mind that the most important part of a financial wellness campaign is to break down the stigma and get students to start talking about finances so they can find out that they are not alone. If you would like any of the materials discussed in this blog post, please feel free to send us an email at [email protected]