Campus offices collaborate to improve students’ financial wellness


Daily file photo by Jeffrey Wang

The Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid will begin offering programming aimed at teaching students better financial habits. The programming, which will include sessions focused on teaching smart spending habits, is based on results from the office’s biannual survey on students’ personal expenses.

Matthew Choi, Assistant Campus Editor

Offices across Northwestern are teaming up to create programs to promote smart financial decision-making for students on campus.

Representatives from multiple offices including the Office of Financial Aid and Student Enrichment Services have formed a committee to create centralized programming to educate students on financial planning, said Brian Drabik, associate director of the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid. Programming will focus on smart spending habits such as saving and investing, loan repayment, budgeting, books and housing, Drabik said.

The program’s first session, which focuses on the costs of living off campus, will be held on Thursday. The Office of Alumni Relations and Development is also working with the committee to assist recent graduates in financial decision-making after graduation.

“(Financial wellness) is actually a very popular topic at universities across the nation and the Department of Education has sent suggestions to schools of topics that they should be sharing with students,” Drabik said. “Their focus is really on student loan debt, but we tried to take a broader approach to it.”

The committee is also working with the Office of Web Communications to create a website that will provide easy access to financial wellness resources for students. The site will also direct students to CashCourse, a website administered by the National Endowment for Financial Education designed to help college students with the various financial issues they encounter on campus.

“CashCourse offers some general information,” Drabik said. “What we’re hoping to do is maybe a Northwestern specific response to some of the same issues (on our website).”

Topics that are covered by the committee’s programming are based off of results from the Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid’s biannual survey on students’ personal expenses, Drabik said. The survey primarily assists the office in calculating the cost of attendance for students applying for financial aid and is administered to 800 undergraduate students representing all academic programs and levels of financial aid.

The committee also looked to programs at peer institutions including Ohio State University and Indiana University in creating financial wellness programming.

“They both have very robust financial wellness programs,” Drabik said. “We’re trying to follow their lead in some ways and create something that works to our special population at Northwestern.”

Although there are multiple resources already in place to promote financial wellness, the committee’s primary goal is to make resources more easily accessible to those who need them, said Ken Brown, a counselor for Student Financial Services.

“Right now everybody has some good ideas about different ways of handling things, but I think the real goal of this committee is how can we centralize this and market it to students so that they’re aware that it is available and make it easily accessible for them,” Brown said.

Student Enrichment Services has increasingly reached out to students who may face financial difficulties in the past few years, said Amanda Walsh, president of the Northwestern Quest Scholars Network. Walsh said she is happy to hear about the collaborative effort involving multiple offices.

“Programs likes this should be able to make sure that students start on the path to not feeling so marginalized and so stressed on campus, and instead as college students who don’t have to worry about their financial situation every second of the day,” the Communication senior said.

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