For students continually stressed over credit card debt, overdraft fees and other financial woes, Kansas University has some help on the way.
Beginning next semester, KU’s Office of Student Success will offer peer financial counseling on the third floor of the Kansas Union. Counselors will help students with managing credit scores, credit cards, finances, and other budgeting and bill payment issues.
These types of issues are covered in many high schools, but often through an elective, said Kathryn Nemeth Tuttle, KU associate vice provost for student success. Students either don’t take the courses or don’t get a good sense of how money works until they become more financially independent in college.
“Students typically come in knowing very little about money and setting a budget,” Tuttle said. “There’s a lot of students out there who are very interested in being savvy about their finances.”
In addition to counseling, the program will eventually offer class presentations, publications and educational outreach. A planned website will feature videos and social networking components.
The new counseling service has a personal finance focus, and won’t offer things like advice on investing or how to set up a retirement plan, Tuttle said. It will, however, refer students to other campus offices if necessary, like the Office of Student Financial Aid, the Bursar’s Office or Legal Services for Students, which can help students with tax preparation issues.
Such an office would be helpful, said Lauren Fournier, a KU senior from Lenexa.
“Especially for freshmen, and especially if they’re living in the dorms,” she said.
There, she said, many influences can vie for a limited amount of funds. She said she understands — when she arrived at KU one of the first things she did was to run out and spend a bunch of money on a tattoo. These days, she said, she knows better and lives within her means and pays her credit card bill in full every month.
Some upfront counseling may have helped her and others, she said.
Brandon Hewitt, a senior from Ozawkie, agreed. He said after years of depending on his parents for money, he suddenly became totally financially independent in college. He’s struggled since with overdraft fees — at one point getting about $300 in the hole.
He said if peer counseling were offered, he’d think about going in for an appointment — if nothing else, to relieve some of the stress caused by worrying about finances.
“I’m getting better about it, but, still my bank account is always down in the low numbers,” he said. “Anytime I got a little money on a paycheck, I’d run out and spend it on something stupid.”
At Kansas State University, a similar program has met with success in its first year of operation, said Jodi Kaus, director of Powercat Financial Counseling.
About 175 students got one-on-one peer counseling appointments, and the program reached an additional 1,200 students through workshops on campus, Kaus said.
The K-State program will be expanding this year to bring in students from its School of Business to supplement its existing peer advisers, who are personal finance majors.
“It’s very effective,” Kaus said. “It’s not like a parent or somebody out of their own generation preaching to them.”