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Financial Literacy: Jason Deitz Talks About the FL Program at Alvernia University

February 23, 2012

Kimber Decker:  What made Alvernia University start a Financial Literacy Program?

Jason Deitz:  Alvernia University felt the need for our students to be more financially informed. During conversations with families we discovered that most did not know where their money was going and how to pay for school and have money to live. If the families had concerns about their finances, we felt the students did not know either. With the cost for tuition, room and board around $40,000 per year, it was important to educate the students about financial aid and finances.

During the beginning, it was crucial that we had the buy-in from the top down. The President, Vice Presidents, and faculty all understood the importance of financial literacy for our students. This program would allow us to build upon the non-classroom experiences that are important at Alvernia.

Kimber:   How did you start the Financial Literacy Program?

Jason:   We recognized the need to further educate our students in personal finance. The program began a few years ago.  We started with a mortgage presentation for upperclassmen and our Graduate and Continuing Studies population. The event was not well attended, but this didn’t deter us. We wanted to open up more programs and make a variety of topics available to our students.

We focused on a time frame of fall 2011. We felt that we could we reach the most students who are beginning their career at Alvernia by speaking with them during their Freshman Seminar course. The First Year Seminar class (a required one credit course) was a perfect opportunity to reach students with our message. We had a great amount of support from the Dean of Student Success who allowed us to become part of the class. It was a requirement and part of the students’ grade that all first year students attend one of our financial literacy sessions. During the fall term we offered 20 one-hour sessions (at varying times and dates) to make attendance as convenient as possible for the students. At each session, we discussed basic financial aid, loans, credit, savings, budgeting, and more. During the class, we took attendance to supply to the First Year Seminar professors and surveyed the students about their interest in other sessions they would like to attend.

Kimber:  What are the highlights of program?

Jason:   One highlight of our program is the requirement for all first year students to attend our Financial Literacy Basics session. This allows us to establish a repore with the students in their first semester and make our services available from the beginning.  With the continued support and buy-in from the professors that run the freshman program, this has made the program very successful.  Also, by surveying the freshman class, we were able to establish what programs and sessions would be important to offer next.

Kimber:   What benefits have you seen from the program?

Jason:   The Office of Student Financial Planning had a goal of reaching as many freshmen as possible in the fall semester. The required session allowed us to reach over 75% of students in the first year. We began to work with the freshman as soon as they came in our doors, and we can now begin to address speaking with our upperclassmen as well.

Kimber:  Does the student get anything for completing the program?

Jason:   The freshman students who complete the required session as part of the First Year Seminar class receive points toward their grade for the one credit class.

Kimber:  How many students have completed the program?  

Jason:  In the programs first year, over 75% of the freshman class have completed one session.

Kimber:  How long has the program been around?

Jason:  The First Year Seminar requirement part of the program has been around since the fall of 2011.  The sessions will be offered every fall; in the spring semester, we will offer several optional sessions to all students, including a Financial Literacy week in April.

Kimber:   Where do you see the Financial Literacy program in five years?

Jason:   I would like to see the financial literacy program expanded to all students every year. Our ultimate goal would be to offer a 1 credit financial literacy class and have this as a requirement to graduate from Alvernia University.

Kimber:  What would you recommend to a school looking to start financial literacy on their campus?

Jason:  It is important to have buy-in from the Administration and students. Patience is the key, as it will take time to get student involvement. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.  Use the resources that already exist and speak with your lender/servicer reps to help build your financial literacy program.  Try to do as much research as possible on the topic of financial literacy (resources are abundant). Don’t be afraid to talk to other schools that have started a program in the past.

Kimber:  What motivated you to become a part of this program?

Jason:  Our office wanted to expand the services we offer to our students.  As the need for students to become more versed in personal finance was obvious, we knew that we would be able to provide the information they wanted, and more importantly, what they needed.  With motivated administration, faculty, and staff in our office, it became easier to begin this program.

On a personal note, I felt it was important since I did not have this type information available to me when I was in school. Students and families may not have the financial knowledge they need to make important money decisions when looking at tuition, fees, and other expenses.  This is a great way for me to help everyone to have this knowledge and have a friendly face to assist in the learning process.

Kimber Decker, Northeast Regional Director (CT, DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA), Nelnet Partner Solutions


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