2 new ways to support student financial literacy on campus

Programs launch for higher ed administrators involved in teaching students about financial aid and beyond
By: | Issue: August/September, 2019
August 19, 2019

Campus teams responsible for teaching financial literacy concepts to students—and in turn, improving cohort default rates on student loans—need not operate as islands within higher ed. Two new national resources are available to provide effective content for formal programs taught to groups of students and for discussions and explanations that occur during one-on-one financial aid counseling sessions.

Financial wellness coaching, training

Today’s college students have diverse backgrounds and responsibilities. To best advise them, financial aid officers need to understand the various financial stressors in their students’ lives.

Food insecurity, homelessness and reliable childcare are a few issues students must overcome while working toward college graduation, says Phil Schuman, senior director of financial literacy at Indiana University. “Many higher ed institutions want a larger structure in place to eliminate these barriers for students.”

A program has launched out of the Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit, hosted for the past six years at Indiana, to provide just that. At the event, which had more than 170 schools represented this year, administrators learn how to improve financial literacy on their own campuses.

For those looking for further instruction in financial literacy education, the summit’s staff and others created the Higher Education Financial Wellness Alliance, which begins this year as a pilot and is expected to be fully operational in 2020. It will offer online and in-person programming for training staff; a coaching program for those developing on-campus financial wellness initiatives; and other support services to share national best practices related to financial wellness.

To join the group’s Listserv or apply for financial-wellness coaching assistance, visit hefwa.org.

Financial aid officer certification

In our rapidly changing economy, up-to-date knowledge is imperative for administrators aiming to provide accurate and useful financial advice to students. In an effort to validate the skills and knowledge needed, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) recently launched its Certified Financial Aid Administrator Program.

The lack of regulation on financial literacy education at postsecondary institutions leaves gaps in terms of standardized resources for financial aid officers, says Dana Kelly, NASFAA’s vice president of professional development and institutional compliance.

Administrators who have 5 years or more experience in the field, have a BA degree, pass an entry exam, and agree to NASFAA’s code of ethics do not need to have earned NASFAA credentials in order to apply to the program. Once admitted, participants learn about specific evolving topics such as student eligibility for financial aid.

The certification is expected to be particularly popular among younger financial aid professionals. “Upcoming generations like to learn,” says Kelly, “and to have access to education that will help them advance and be respected in their careers.”