Kent State Introduces Formal CashCourse Program for Financial Wellness
Fall 2016 marks the first semester of newly added CashCourse workshops at Kent State University. The Bursar’s Office piloted the program in the spring and has expanded its selection for the fall term. University Bursar Stina Olafsdottir registered Kent State with CashCourse three years ago and has been growing the program since.
CashCourse provides online resources targeted to college students with information on a variety of topics such as budgeting, ways to manage federal student loans, banking, insurance and salary negotiation.
CashCourse was initially marketed to faculty and staff as a way to access financial wellness resources that could be used in the classroom or as workshops. The goal of the program is to create awareness about financial wellness and to empower students to take charge of their financial well-being.
“I know from personal experience working with students and from research on the topic of financial wellness that our students are not ready to tackle the complexities of their financial wellness when they’re coming into college,” Olafsdottir says. “As such, it’s very, very important to allow financial wellness to be a part of our landscape at Kent State University.”
Olafsdottir hired Alex Sommer, a full-time graduate assistant, to help launch the pilot program and manage financial education for Kent State students
“Alex has been fantastic,” Olafsdottir says. “She’s passionate about the topics, and she loves to work with the students.”
Sommer has been developing workshop schedules since fall 2015, and she organized the first few trial workshops last spring term.
A comparison of the attendance between the test run and this fall semester shows an increase in overall attendance. More than 70 students attended CashCourse workshops on campus within the first two weeks.
Sommer believes that the increased attendance can be attributed to a combination of regular scheduling, improved marketing and relatable facilitators. Olafsdottir adds that a larger student population and the new variety of workshops and topics also are beneficial.
“I think we’ve done a really good job of offering a ‘buffet’ of workshops for people to really fit into what their needs and situations are,” Sommer says. “We’re looking at this curriculum and the workshops that we’re offering and trying to make sure that it’s inclusive of everyone, from international students to graduating seniors.”
Workshops offered include “Budgeting for Life After College: A Reality Check,” “Getting Ahead on the Job” and many more. A partnership with PNC Bank also enables the bank to bring in representatives to facilitate workshops such as “Banking for International Students” and “Identity Theft.”
Sommer also credits the program’s success to marketing, such as bulletins-in-a-bag and the financial wellness champions who facilitate the workshops.
“We found that it’s more relevant to have students facilitating these workshops,” Sommer says. “Concepts of financial wellness may be overwhelming to some students. Having a peer facilitate these workshops, we have found, makes the workshop and information more relatable and financial goals attainable. Seeing a peer being able to explain the material and also successfully navigate their own financial wellness can encourage students attending our workshops to feel financially empowered themselves."
The Bursar’s Office hosts the workshops in the Center for Undergraduate Excellence every week, but Olafsdottir hopes to see it incorporated into the curriculum around campus.
“A lot of the universities are moving in the direction where some of the topics are pushed in to the Freshman Year Experience courses, and they’re required to be taken,” Olafsdottir says. “Incorporating it into the curriculum demonstrates commitment to a student’s financial well-being.”
Olafsdottir recognizes that continued success of the financial wellness initiative is very much a team effort in collaboration with the Center for Undergraduate Excellence’s student success series, PNC Bank, advising offices, resident services and First-Year Experience instructors.
“Kent State is very committed to its students,” Olafsdottir says. “It isn’t just the Bursar’s Office that made this happen. We’ve had fantastic feedback and cooperation across campus to allow us to push this out in different ways, so it may be originating from our office, but we’ve really had a lot of help from other offices and departments.”
For more information about the financial wellness workshops, visit www.kent.edu/bursar/financial-wellness-workshops.