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Best Practices in Financial Aid: Texas Tech University’s Award Winning Financial Literacy Program

February 23, 2011

The Red to Black® program at Texas Tech University was developed in 2001 to provide free and confidential financial planning, counseling, and education for students. Today, the program has 35 volunteers that provide their services, not only to students, but to Lubbock, TX area residents, as well. The mission of Red to Black is to help students, faculty, community members and organizations by advocating responsible financial behaviors through financial counseling, financial education and transfer of skills. The program recently received the Outstanding Financial Counseling Center Award from the Association for Financial Counseling, Planning and Education (AFCPE).

Jared Herrera and Katie Horton, both Graduate Assistants at Texas Tech University were interviewed for this story by Don Buehrer, Nelnet Regional Director for SWASFAA and RMASFAA.

Don: Why was this program developed by Texas Tech University?

Jared:  Well, in 2001, some students were having challenges in terms of their personal finances. As a result of their troubling debt, they began turning to their Personal Financial Planning professors for guidance and direction. Research suggests that students having financial issues may not perform as well in school, which could eventually lead to them dropping out altogether. So, Dr. Dottie Durband, our Director, along with the University, was proactive in developing this program and the results have been positive.

Don:  What benefits have you seen from the program?

Katie:  The benefits of the program are numerous. We educate the Texas Tech community on how to develop responsible financial behaviors that hopefully will last them a lifetime. Our Red to Black volunteers not only receive expanded financial literacy training, but also have an opportunity to sharpen their presentation skills and to apply their knowledge of financial literacy with others.

Don: What are the highlights of program?

Jared:  At first, the program only offered presentations to groups of students. In 2002, one-on-one counseling sessions for students were added. In 2007, the program expanded and we now offer services to residents in the greater Lubbock area, as well. Our student volunteers are trained to discuss a variety of personal finance topics, including debt management, credit, student loans, identity theft, and the development of a budget. During the first semester of the 2010-11 school year, we were involved in nearly 150 presentations and counseling sessions.

Don: What type of training do you undertake to be qualified to participate in this program?

Katie:  Before you can become a volunteer, you must complete two classes through the Division of Personal Financial Planning:  Intro to Personal Financial Planning and Financial Counseling. After that, our Outreach Based (OB) volunteers must attend a one-day training session outside of the classroom. OB volunteers are in charge of providing the presentations to the classes and student organizations. Our Client Based (CB) volunteers must attend a two-day training session outside of the classroom. They offer the one-on-one sessions to Tech students. And our Community Client Based (CCB) volunteers, who are select graduate students, must attend an additional half day training session on top of the CB training. They offer one-on-one sessions to the greater Lubbock area residents. In addition to the initial trainings, each month we provide mandatory on-going continuing education for all volunteers to help keep them stay current on new or timely issues.

Don: What other resources do you use to assist you student and community clients?

Jared: We have a great website (www.r2b.ttu.edu) that has a lot of information on personal finance, including free worksheets to help develop a budget and a section called “What We are Reading” that has links to books and articles relating to financial literacy that could be of interest. We also work very closely with the Texas Tech financial aid office. Every year Red to Black develops and hosts Financial Education Week aimed at increasing the financial literacy of the Texas Tech community. The keynote presentation this year involves the financial aid office and will focus on the lifecycle of a student loan. It will cover the student loan application process, how to budget appropriately after you have received your student loan funds, and how to pay back your student loan.

Don: I notice that you provide handouts for your clients to use.

Katie: Yes we do. In addition to the worksheets that we provide on our website, we have also created a variety of informational brochures. These brochures cover topics such as Student Loan Debt, Employee Benefits and Expenses After College. We provide our clients with the information that is relevant to their individual circumstances.

Don: The two of you obviously are very passionate about your efforts with Red to Black.  What motivated you to become a part of this project?

Jared:  Before attending graduate school, I worked in the financial services industry in management, training and personal advisor capacities. The Red to Black program has allowed me to expand my knowledge of these areas and have the opportunity to help individuals and families achieve financial security through financial planning and counseling.

Katie:  After working in corporate tax, I felt that I would gain more satisfaction from helping individuals rather than corporations. I decided to come back to school to learn how to help others make wise financial decisions and become financially independent. Red to Black has been a great way to develop those skills, and to begin helping people on the road to financial independence.

Don Buehrer, Regional Director (TX, KS, NE, SD, ND, MT, and UT), Nelnet Partner Solutions

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