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K-State Today

July 5, 2012



Trendsetter: Personal financial planner co-edits book about establishing financial counseling centers for students

By Communications and Marketing

College often is the first time young adults will be faced with management of their finances. Helping students improve their financial management skills is one reason why financial counseling services for students, such as those offered by Kansas State University's Powercat Financial Counseling, are a growing trend on campuses.

It's also why Sonya Britt, assistant professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University's School of Family Studies and Human Services, co-edited a new book to help colleges, universities and other institutions establish or improve financial literacy for students.

Britt and Dottie Durband, associate professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University, are co-editors of "Student Financial Literacy: Campus Based Program Development," which was released this spring by Springer. Durband also is director of Texas Tech's student financial counseling program, Red to Black.

"While I was a Ph.D. student at Texas Tech University, I served as the assistant director of Red to Black, a peer-based financial counseling center for students that is similar to Powercat Financial Counseling at K-State," Britt said. "Dottie and I were always getting calls from people who wanted to start a similar program at their school. But there was no resource for the other schools, so we decided to write a book about the need for student financial counseling programs and how to start one."

The target market for the book is people who are interested in improving or establishing financial counseling resources at their institution. It includes several chapters written by faculty from Kansas State University's personal financial planning program and the director of Powercat Financial Counseling.

"It is a useful manual for college and university personnel and student leaders who want to develop a campus-based financial counseling/education program," Britt said. "Schools may learn effective strategies to assist in the implementation or the enhancement of a program as a tool to improve students' educational experience and financial well-being."

Britt said financial literacy for college students is essential as they are particularly vulnerable to making poor financial decisions while coping with the academic and social demands of college life. And these poor decisions can haunt them even after they graduate.

"Some students are graduating with low credit scores, typically due to carrying high levels of credit card and student loan debt and inconsistent payment histories," Britt said. "It may become increasingly more difficult for these students to find employment after graduation, since prospective employers are now frequently checking applicants' credit reports. Students' credit histories also affect their ability to rent housing, qualify for an auto or home loan, or obtain good insurance premiums and interest rates."

Britt said financial counseling and education programs can be easily designed to be consistent with a university's missions of outreach, research and teaching.

"These programs are also in line with college and university goals to increase retention rates and limit delayed graduation or academic interruption because of student financial concerns," she said.

Britt says the establishment of financial literacy programs for students is a growing trend. The programs vary in composition -- some schools offers counseling services like Powercat Financial Counseling where students can get help with budgeting, credit issues and more, while other schools offer personal finance workshops and presentations or have websites with links to pertinent content.

Although the number of schools offering student financial literacy programs hasn't been determined, Britt said a 2010 survey of 230 financial aid administrators revealed that 48 percent of respondents offered a financial literacy program at their school. In the same study, 50 percent of respondents without programs indicated that their institution was planning to implement a program within the next year.

Among the Kansas State University faculty members and students contributing to "Student Financial Literary: Campus Based Program Development" are Britt; Jodi Kaus, director of Powercat Financial Counseling; Mary Bell, doctoral candidate in personal financial planning, Manhattan; and John Grable, former professor of personal financial planning.