UND expands ‘Financial Wellness’ program with support from local banks


David L. Dodds

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UND expands ‘Financial Wellness’ program with support from local banks

College students today have a lot to juggle, and according to recent surveys, money management is near the top of concerns weighing on their minds.

University of North Dakota students are not immune to the challenge. But help is on the way, says Laurie Betting, the University’s associate vice president for health & wellness.

UND has received gifts from U.S. Bank and the Bank of North Dakota for a new program called “Financial Wellness,” which aims to expand ongoing efforts on campus to improve financial literacy among students.

“Course load, relationships and money,” Betting says, are three primary concerns being reported by UND students. “Money is right at the top.”

And it’s a good thing students are starting to recognize this on their own, because, in many cases, they’re not getting the advice at home.

As part of its process to study if there was a need for the Financial Wellness program, UND Health & Wellness conducted surveys on financial issues with parents of first-year students. The surveys found that even parents were uneasy with the subject.

“The parents would tell us ‘we’d rather talk to our sons and daughters about sex than money,’” Betting said.

Bolstering UND’s findings, the 2012 National College Health Assessment, for the first time, listed finances as one of the Top 10 factors affecting individual academic performances. The NCHA survey also found that students reported finances as an issue that has been “traumatic or very difficult” for them to handle in the last 12 months.

Given those results, UND has found more than enough support to launch its Financial Wellness program. It will give students and their parents financial know-how as they take on one of the most significant debts of their lives – a college education.

“It was like a choir of voices saying ‘we’ve got to do something,’” Betting said. “If they don’t have the right information when they get here, then, let’s get it to them as soon as we can and set them up for a successful future.”

Already using seed money allocated from the UND Vice President for Student Affairs Office, the Financial Wellness program hired Patrick Hendrickson, a graduate student, to get things rolling. Space also has been allocated for the program in McCannel Hall, on campus, near the Memorial Union. The new infusion of money from U.S. Bank and the Bank of North Dakota will go a long way in sustaining the program, Betting said, providing for the hiring of an additional graduate student who will be responsible for hiring and training four to six peer educators for one-on-one financial counseling.

In addition, UND has begun incorporating Financial Wellness educational content into its “Introduction to U Life” and TRIO programs as well as the University’s Student Success Center.

“We’re like a startup company,” Betting said. “We’re young, we’re smart and we’re savvy and we’re going out there and making it happen.”

Betting said that a collaboration of divisions on campus has made the Financial Wellness program a reality. They include the College of Business and Public Administration, the Vice President for Student Affairs Office, Chester Fritz Library and the Department of Social Work. A Financial Wellness Advisory Board of students, staff, administrators and faculty also has been set up to oversee the program.

U.S. Bank has long been a partner with the UND Business School to help educate students on the how credit works and the value of good credit.

John Snustad, U.S. Bank regional president, says he likes the new Financial Wellness program because it expands what the bank has been doing with the business school to support the entire campus “with a much more robust” set of initiatives.

“U.S. Bank believes that learning how to use credit wisely is key for students to be successful in attaining the loans and credit they need to buy cars, houses and fund their future needs at the best terms available,” he said. “It is critical to understand how making timely payments and using credit in moderation will help you tomorrow as you seek to maintain a strong credit position.”

U.S. Bank has three locations in Grand Forks. The bank also sponsors the UND Alumni Association Visa Card that has a Student Card and Signature Card.

UND Student Body President Logan Fletcher said the Financial Wellness program is something that is needed on campus, and the fact that it’s happening, shows the University, community and state’s collaborative response to student needs.

“Students don’t always come into college with education about loans, financial terminology or budgeting, which is why this program and these donations are so important,” Fletcher said. “As an individual and as the Student Body President, I’m so thankful for these gifts to UND Health & Wellness.”

If anyone is interested in learning more about this program, please contact Laurie Betting.

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