Online Extra: Making money manageable
Focusing on midterms is stressful enough without the added worry of personal financial woes. Enter St. Kate’s Money Management program, with Peer Money Mentors to the rescue. From one-on-one counseling to fun, informative workshops like thrifty gifting, the Peer Money Mentors offer a range of personalized, budget-conscience services.
St. Kate’s Money Management program was established in 2007 by staff and faculty concerned about the rising cost of college — and that many students entered St. Kate’s lacking money management skills.
Here’s the twist, though. Those Peer Money Mentors delivering the counseling and workshops? They’re college students themselves.
“From the get-go, the plan was to have the program peer-mentored because students tend to listen better to peers,” says Kathy Czech, assistant director of Financial Literacy & Student Employment. “By seeing a living example of good money management from their peers, they are more likely to follow suit.”
Peer Money Mentors may be college students, but their financial expertise runs deep and the job requires a long-term commitment. Once employed, they go through six months of intensive training and on-going professional development.
Experts from outside organizations are brought in — Lutheran Social Service Financial Counseling for training on consumer credit and budgeting, and Wells Fargo for training on banking basics. Internal experts from St. Kate’s Information Technology department provide training on fraud protection and identity theft; Financial Aid covers scholarship searches and financial aid packages; and Student Accounts covers KatePay and other account management.
This in-depth training pays off. But where the students really shine is one-on-one counseling.
“I’ve witnessed very agitated students come in here, worried about their financial aid or about a hold on their account,” says Czech. “Our Peer Money Mentors will sit down with them, and very calmly talk through a plan of action. Those once-agitated student leave the office visibly relieved.”
Money can be an emotional topic, as Sai Yang ’17 discovered when she started as a Peer Money Mentor.
“I didn’t realize how sensitive this issue is for students.” she says. “For me, it’s just money. That experience taught me to have these conversations with students in a way that makes them feel safe talking about money. That’s what I love most about this job — that every student is a different situation and you can learn from it.”
Beyond individual counseling, the Peer Money Mentors partner with departments and student groups across campus to provide a range of workshops including fraud protection, shopping on a budget and student loan repayment.
Don’t see a workshop you need? Not to worry. Suggest a topic, and the Peer Money Mentors are on it. The four-student team will research the issue, narrow the focus, put together a presentation and market it to the community.
“That’s how ‘Couponing’ became one of the most popular workshops we offer,” says Czech.
This team approach has benefits for the student mentors, who gain collaborative experience, project management skills and a sense of ownership.
“I get to be very creative in this position,” says Yang. “Kathy guides us in our work, but leaves us to make the decisions on how to shape the projects. I think that’s important groundwork for future jobs, because that’s what it will be like when we’re out in the real world.”
The culmination of these experiences gives the Peer Money Mentors a competitive edge in the job market post-graduation.
“They walk away with above-average financial knowledge, the ability to counsel others and run appointments and really solid teamwork skills,” says Czech. “Employers have been impressed with their professionalism and the level of responsibility they manage.”
Just as importantly, the program has made a clear impact on the students they serve. In the most recent survey conducted, 100 percent of students who attended St. Kate’s Money Management programming rated the content as “good to excellent.”
Yang says that ultimately, the mentors aim to have a ripple effect on St. Kate’s community. “We hope that the students who comes into this space — whether for budget tips or scholarship searches — will share that info other students and their family members,” she adds. “Money is a number one stressor. When we learn to manage it, we’re happier in life and at school!”
Read about the students who work in St. Kate's Information Technology and Public Safety offices.