Financial Wellness Center Teaches Dollars and Sense
Every fall, at universities across the country, a new group of students experience the joy of being alone, often for the first time in their lives. Right off the bat, you come across a series of information tables filled with free material. Some of these freebies come with expensive strings, as Gilbert Rogers learned the hard way.
Rogers is now a personal finance expert, but as a first-year freshman at Western Kentucky University, he was an easy choice for banks handing out t-shirts. “All you had to do was sign up for a credit card,” he says. “I’ll be walking around campus pretty soon with four or five shirts and not thinking about what it means to have all these credit cards in the mail.”
As director of the University of Oregon’s new Financial Wellness Center, Rogers is developing the student financial education program he wished existed when he naively collected these “free” shirts. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, from working in the U.S. Army’s financial advisory program at Fort Knox to introducing a financial education program at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he quickly became known as a rising star in the financial world.
“Students invest both their time and energy to graduate,” says Rogers, who analyzed the need for financial literacy programs in his doctoral thesis. “As they take on more and more debt, universities need to help them ease their transition to the real world after graduation. The Financial Wellness Center enables the investment in your education to pay off much earlier in life. “
Rogers says it was worth it for him to move his family from Oklahoma to Oregon during a pandemic, the vision for a culture of financial wellbeing at the UO, a vision supported by a gift from Nancy and Dave Petrone, BS ‘ 66 (Business), MBA ’68 (Business Environment).
“We reach out to students by going into the rooms they’re in and explaining how financial literacy will help them throughout their lives,” says Rogers. “The Petrones support enables us to do this right.”
In contrast to schools, which only offer a simple website with tips and tricks for managing money, the UO center offers peer financial coaches, offers workshops for student and campus organizations and draws on the expertise of lecturers and alumni in the Areas of tax planning, investing and even buying back cars. The center, a joint project of the Lundquist College of Business and the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, expands its predecessor Financial Flight Plan.
Dave Petrone says the couple’s gift came from their finding over the years that many young people struggle with financial literacy.
“If I could think of one class of teaching that students should have before graduation so they can leave college ready to take care of themselves, this is it,” said the former senior vice president of Wells Fargo.
Rogers says the UO program is special because the Petrones gift provides funding to pay for a large, diverse team of student coaches. “Most universities I’ve seen offer their students volunteer financial coaching positions,” he says. “Recruiting coaches from a variety of academic programs, personal backgrounds and interests will help us reach more students.”
Nevertheless, he leaves nothing to chance. Of the 20 students who work as coaches, four were selected for their social media and design skills. You work as an in-house marketing agency.
“We look forward to having face-to-face meetings, but right now we’re engaging students in a virtual environment,” says Rogers. “Getting people to come to another Zoom event is a challenge.”
Angel Escorcia-Nuñez, a sophomore from Albany specializing in journalism and communication, is glad he made the effort to add another zoom to his schedule, a one-on-one interview with a peer coach. Although he has PathwayOregon and Diversity Excellence Scholarships, one of his greatest sources of stress is financial worries.
“I want to learn to use my money wisely,” he says. “I’ve found that the most important thing is to look at your financial situation, whether you’re having trouble or doing well, and ask for help when you’re ready for future steps like investing.”
Carly Kleefeld of Fair Oaks, Calif. Runs for the Ducks and peer-coaches while doing a Masters in Preventive Science, a College of Education program that focuses on interventions to help children and families. “I love our budgeting worksheet,” she says. “This is my favorite resource because when everything is written down, students can see how much they save by leaving things out.”
Kleefeld speaks from experience. It wasn’t until after completing the worksheet during training that she realized that canceling her unused Hulu account would save $ 12 a month. “I couldn’t even remember having it,” she says. Her education, combined with her paycheck, already alleviates her fear of making ends meet.
Peer coach Alexandra Webster, a Houston business student, says the students she advises who are feeling the most stressed took out loans that were charged interest from the minute they were signed on the dashed line .
“We can help them find ways to manage monthly payments so that interest doesn’t build up during school days,” she says. “But I hope other students will get in touch with us before they take out a loan so we can discuss all of the options, including loans that don’t pay interest until after graduation. Now that I have learned so much from my apprenticeship, I feel that I can have a better future for myself and my family without any money problems down the line. “
For his part, Rogers gets up every morning and focuses on helping more students avoid missteps, from paying a premium for a loan to risking their future creditworthiness for a t-shirt.
“Nobody talks money management to students unless they are fortunate enough to have financially savvy parents,” he says. “This is one area where an early mistake can have a huge impact on your life.”
—By Melody Ward Leslie, BA ’79 (Humanities), an employed university communications writer
THE FIVE FINANCIAL TIPS FROM GILBERT ROGERS
1. Your budget is your BFF: Budgets are the foundation of money management and, by far, the most important skill students need to master.
2. Build up your credit while you study: By taking a few simple steps to graduate with a higher credit score, students can realize significant savings across the board.
3. Protect your identity: Students need to monitor their credit reports for fraud and protect their online accounts by setting up multi-factor authentication.
4th Understand your current credit situation: Students should know their current loan balance and how much they will owe after graduation.
5. Invest in yourself: Attend workshops and seminars on financial literacy. Read, listen to podcasts, and explore investing.