PSU Students: How $MART Are They?

December 20th, 2007 by Adam

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PLYMOUTH, N.H.-When Alli Diamond entered Plymouth State University to begin her studies in elementary education, she never imagined she’d be getting important lessons in financial management, too. The Hudson, N.H. native is, like many first-year college students, borrowing money to pay for tuition and trying live within her budget, a goal made a lot easier by Plymouth State’s Financial Aid Team, who recently counseled her about personal finances.

“I wasn’t thinking about it, and now that I’ve seen what happens to people, how much debt you can go into, it really made an impact; it really opens your eyes,” said Diamond.

Diamond is one of the first students to participate in $tudents Monetary Awareness and Responsibility Today ($MART), which was developed by PSU’s Financial Aid team in response to the escalating debt being incurred by many college students.

Approximately 10% of new, first-year PSU students who borrowed money for their education were invited to participate in these personalized, $MART counseling sessions. In addition to ongoing individual and confidential counseling, $MART participants receive a personalized portfolio containing their financial aid information as well as financial literacy tools. The Financial Aid Team compiled a personalized packet for Diamond with information about student loans and helpful pointers on managing personal finances.

“They really put it together and made it easy for me,” said Diamond. “I can now look at what I’m going make in the future, my credit score, a lot of things I wasn’t clear on then I could really consider how much I can make in payments, after they talked with me I knew exactly what was going on. I wouldn’t have been comfortable coming in here and saying ‘I need help,’” Diamond said.

“That’s where $MART can help, by assisting students in identifying optional resources and strategies to keep the cost of education affordable,” said Angela Torsey, $MART program coordinator and PSU senior financial aid counselor. In photo above, Torsey is pictured on right meeting with student Alli Diamond

In New Hampshire, student financial problems are acute—the state has the nation’s second-highest average student loan debt. According to the University System of New Hampshire (USNH), those students who graduate from a USNH school, who have incurred debt, owe on average, $22,274.

“Our sincere concern is that students are mortgaging their future which will impact their quality of life after graduation. The financial commitments they make today could affect them for the next 20 to 30 years,” said June Schlabach, PSU financial aid director.

“We’ve come to the point where financial education should be part of the academic experience; it’s a necessary step in preparing students for life after college,” said Crystal Finefrock, PSU financial aid associate director and $MART program director. “If we can help students think about the long-term impact of their borrowing decisions, it could benefit them tremendously. This program is about creating opportunities for conversation that allow everyone involved to learn from each other.”

One of the tools available in this portfolio is The Freeway Guide to Maximizing Your Money, an 80-minute audio program written and recorded by New Hampshire financial author, Peter Bielagus, and donated and published by The Freeway Guides (www.FreewayGuides.com), a brand new audio learning series.

PSU’s Financial Aid Team has also unveiled a ‘financial wellness’ section on their Web link (www.plymouth.edu/finaid/wellness/index.html) and is beginning a program this spring where financial education presentations will be brought into the residence halls. Angie Uhlman, a PSU financial aid counselor, is coordinating this activity.

“My advice is, if you’re struggling, if you need help with anything, no matter what the question, it’s really a great program, any needs that you have, it ended up being very helpful. I really liked the program,” said Diamond.

For more information, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr, (603) 535-2775 or Bruce Lyndes