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Financial Literacy: University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Student Money Management Center

March 6, 2012

Erin Wirth, Student Money Management Center Program Coordinator, University of Nebraska Lincoln

What started out as a suggestion from students has turned into a very successful, user friendly and informative financial literacy program for students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The UNL Student Money Management Center (SMMC) offers one-on-one money management advising sessions and financial resources for UNL students. The highlight of the program is their innovative, interactive financial education activities, including workshops, events, and games. 

Erin Wirth is the SMMC Program Coordinator and was recently interviewed by Don Buehrer, Nelnet’s Regional Director for RMASFAA and SWASFAA.

Don: When was this program created?

Erin: About three years ago, a group of UNL students saw a need for a program that provided financial education for students. The university reviewed their request, agreed with them, and the program was approved and funded. The program is a joint venture between the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska (ASUN); Child, Youth and Families Studies; and Student Affairs.

Don: What do you see as the goal of the program?

Erin: Our goal is to help students develop ways to better manage their finances and empower them to make good financial decisions. Ultimately, we want students to have confidence in their abilities to successfully manage their financial lives.

Don: The SMMC is very detailed and offers a variety of events. Is there one area that is more popular than the others?

Erin: Initially the workshops were the most popular with our students. But lately, we’ve seen an increased interest in our personalized one-on-one sessions. We have two types of sessions: one for students wishing to gain financial information that will help them better manage their financial lives and one for students with specific issues that need help finding solutions.

Don: How do you gauge the success of your programs?

Erin: We do annual program evaluations and adjust our offerings accordingly. Our last evaluation clearly showed us that students feel more confident in their abilities to manage their financial responsibilities. And that’s the main reason we’re here.

Don: Why do you think your programs have been successful?

Erin: There are several reasons why we are achieving our goal. When the program started, we took our programs to the students. We didn’t wait for them to come to us. Our reps were busy on campus promoting what was offered and how students could benefit from these offerings. It is difficult to get information to college students. We’re constantly reviewing our communication efforts to find the best ways to communicate with them. We also spent plenty of time reviewing the annual evaluations and making adjustments accordingly.

Don: How do you keep your students interested in your programs?

Erin: We consistently offer fun money management activities. One thing we do is hold monthly online contests. In January, we offered an online quiz entitled Forbes List of Fictional Characters. The quiz provides important narratives on investing, budgeting and student loan repayment. Winners are rewarded with prizes.

Don: I see you also have materials for parents. What is offered to them?

Erin: We encourage parents to attend our workshops when their children visit our campus for our new student enrollment programs. We use several resources from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension. The materials include information on identity theft, budgeting, student loan repayment and investing. We want parents to communicate with their children on the importance of keeping student loan debt as low as possible and to begin making sound financial decisions immediately.

Don: Do you have any suggestions for other colleges/universities that are developing financial literacy websites/programs for their students?

Erin:  I would encourage them to think about their target audience, what you want to communicate to them, and how you will reach them. I also think it is very important to have students involved in the development process. You’ll need to be as creative and innovative as possible. And after your program is developed, take it to the students instead of waiting for them to come to you.

Don Buehrer, Regional Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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