University sees increase in students seeking financial counseling

The University of Minnesota’s financial wellness resource One Stop has experienced an increased demand in students seeking help with navigating finances.

Cleo Krejci

As more students seek financial aid resources at the University of Minnesota, fewer are graduating with student loan debt, according to data from One Stop Student Services. 

One Stop, a financial wellness resource for students on campus, has seen an increased demand in students seeking help with navigating finances.At the same time, the percentage of students graduating from the University of Minnesota with zero dollars in student loan debt is on the rise.

Students leaving the University with no loan debt rose from 35 to 43 percent between 2009 and 2017, according to the Office for Undergraduate Education.

When a student knows how much debt they have, it may not seem like a lot of money at first , said Tina Falkner, director of the Office of Student Finance. When broken down into costly installments over a decade-long period, however, the cost gets put into perspective, she said. 

The number of students seeking One Stop financial counseling appointments in 2018 has already surpassed intake from the previous year – from 100 consultations in 2017 to 175 so far in 2018. 

“We’re on track to double or triple that number and that’s been… the trend – the more we can spread the message [about One Stop], the more and more appointments we can have,” said One Stop assistant director and financial wellness committee chair Betsy Everts.

Students most often bring up loan debt management and budgeting during one-on-one appointments, she said.

“What we’re hearing from students after the appointment is… ‘I wish I would’ve heard about this long ago.’ So we are trying to disperse this on the [University] campus,” Everts said.

University senior Lydia Fess, who helped found the Personal Finance Club, sat down with a financial aid counselor when she began thinking about navigating college finances. Fess said she created the club to educate her peers about the issue after learning about finances in high school. 

“I knew which loans to pay off first and where I should and shouldn’t go for help [with finances], and so because of that I felt like this was something I should… share with as many people as possible.” 

Fess said she hopes to see the University improve its ability to help students manage finances early in their college careers by adding a more comprehensive one-credit course for students to improve their financial literacy.

“I think… a lot of people don’t know how important it is to be aware of your financial health every minute of every day,” Fess said. 

Falkner said academic support resources are looking to decrease student fear about approaching student counseling services.

I think most of us are afraid to talk to [loan services]. It’s sort of like going to talk to the doctor when you think you have something wrong,” Falkner said. “We can help… but we need someone to come in and ask us to.”