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Financial Literacy: Kansas State University’s Award-Winning Powercat Financial Counseling Program

November 7, 2012

Kansas State University’s Powercat Financial Counseling Team

There are many success stories coming out of Kansas State University these days. Enrollment for the fall semester is at a record high of 24,378. KSU researchers recently developed a simple blood test that can accurately detect the beginning stages of cancer. The KSU football team is nationally ranked. And their Powercat Financial Counseling program was recently noted as a model financial education program in the White House’s Financial Capability Higher Education Toolkit. Jodi Kaus, Powercat Financial Counseling’s Director, was recently interviewed by Don Buehrer, Nelnet’s Regional Director for RMASFAA and SWASFAA.

Don: When was the Powercat Financial Counseling program created?

Jodi: Powercat Financial Counseling launched in August 2009 after a planning process of 18 to 24 months. Our Student Governing Association leaders were interested in starting a center for students to receive financial help and worked with the administration and faculty in our personal financial planning program to create a plan for its creation.

Don: What do you see as the goal of the program?

Jodi: The program is a peer-to-peer program where students studying a finance-related major offer assistance to fellow students on budgeting, saving, credit, student loan repayment and transitioning to work. Our mission is to increase the financial capability of all K-State students while providing a top-notch pre-professional experience for students interested in financial services.

Don: How do you gauge the success of your programs?

Jodi: Success is gauged with both large and small indicators.  In addition to receiving the White House recognition, we also received NASPA’s Student Affairs Partnering with Academic Affairs Promising Practices Award in 2011. Overall service numbers are tracked to evidence service outcomes which indicate significant ongoing increases of over 85-100% from prior periods. We feel this confirms the increasing value students are finding in our services.  We always collect client evaluation data which indicates 98% of clients felt the services they received will help them deal more effectively with their financial issues.  Success is also measured with the individual stories we witness on a daily basis with our clients in helping them resolve their financial issues. Those are the most rewarding successes for us!

Don: What programs do you offer?

Jodi: We offer K-State students free individual financial counseling, group financial presentations, and online financial resources along with fun, interactive financial events.  For distance students and busy on-campus students such as our Veterinary Medicine students, we offer Skype-to-Skype online financial counseling as well.  We’re gearing up for our 3rd annual “Thrifty Gifting” event where students will learn holiday budgeting tips in a fun atmosphere with food and prizes.

Don: Tell me about your student peer counselors.

Jodi: They are a high-caliber group of students who are passionate about helping fellow students succeed.  They come from our personal financial planning, business finance, accounting, economics, agri-business, and agricultural economics majors. They are typically juniors, seniors or graduate students.  They must complete a rigorous training program that lasts an entire semester before they begin client work.  They are gaining invaluable experience in the program learning not only how to develop client relationships but how to speak about finances in front of groups. They are writing about financial topics as well in our center blog and other publications. We are equally focused on the overall development of the peer financial counselors along with service to the campus. The hands-on financial counseling experience they are gaining is like none other.

Don: I noticed your program does research. Can you explain the types of research you do and the outcomes you have seen?

Jodi: Since inception, we have been gathering research data to help provide validation on the impact of our financial services and have proven that our counseling sessions do in fact reduce financial stress students may be experiencing. Dr. Sonya Britt in our Personal Financial Planning program is the primary researcher working with our program, and we look to provide additional outcomes as more data is collected.

Don: Do you have suggestions for other colleges/universities that are developing financial literacy websites/programs for their students?

Jodi: Focus on what works best for students and get as much student input along the way as possibleP. Make learning about finances fun, interesting, and relevant for students. Collaborate with every area on campus that you can think to partner with as money is connected to nearly everything. They are always welcome to review our website www.k-state.edu/pfc at  to learn more about our growing program.

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