Portland State’s Financial Wellness Center, initiated as an effort to help students with tuition payment plans and to curb the number of dropouts due to the costs of attendance, offers a variety of money-smart tools.
The FWC’s primary target is helping students with their financial needs to complete their university degrees. Other offerings include financial goal setting, the basics of banking, budgeting, credit education, debt repayment and savings goals.
When a student is not making payments against their tuition payment plan—the plan charges a $100 late fee—they may receive a call or email from Student Financial Services, whose goal is to present help and resources for students to continue their education. A student may also be contacted after they have dropped out to see what can be done to help them complete their degree.
Out of that work, SFS realized there are several financial topics of which increased awareness could benefit students. They wondered what would it take to offer students a place where they could come in and meet with someone certified to provide training and to help familiarize themselves with personal finance topics.
The FWC arose from these questions.
Amanda Nguyen, director of SFS and the FWC, has worked at various committees and groups looking at how to provide better financial literacy and financial information to students.
“Looking at the students who usually come in to see us at SFS—sometimes it’s when there’s already an issue,” Nguyen said. “We wanted to focus on how we could be more proactive to help students overcome financial obstacles and feel confident in making financial decisions.”
It is undecided if working with the FWC will give leeway against fees or reduce regular payments.
“It’s not [SFS’s] intent to charge people,” Nguyen said. “We try to partner with other offices and see what we can do, or if there’s other funding available, and try to work out something that’s going to be sustainable, but it really depends on the individual. The sooner a student reaches out to us or we can get in touch with them, the more options we have.”
Contacting the FWC can be done online, by email or by telephone. Its website lists a number of topics to choose from, including ‘other.’ When students visit the FWC, they meet privately with one of the financial coaches who may be a peer mentor or manager. All FWC financial coaches are certified with Inceptia, a nonprofit organization and division of National Student Loan Program, which provides expertise in higher education access and the various financial aspects of it. Services provided are free.