Wednesday, May 9, 2018

UVA Financial Wellness Program peer counseling service to pilot this fall

SFS's new program aims to alleviate student financial worries.
A budding new peer financial counseling program, spearheaded by Student Financial Services (SFS) and with financial support from both the Jefferson Trust and a UVA alum, will help UVA students learn from their peers how to make better financial choices. The program, funded by a grant from the Jefferson Trust, will have a pilot program in place by the end of the Fall 2018 term.

Students experience stress from a host of sources: classes and grades, work and extra-curricular activities, and, of course, financial responsibilities and looming student debt. Studies have found that financial worries can contribute significantly to students’ overall stress level, as well as their physical and emotional health.

Chris Doran, communications manager in SFS, says the program is part of SFS’s overall continued efforts to help students realize the impact of borrowing on their future. Through outreach and counseling, SFS team members have worked to encourage UVA undergraduates to limit their borrowing of unsubsidized loans and raise awareness of their current indebtedness. The peer counseling program will be another large step in the right direction.

“In the last year, we’ve begun to take steps such as holding office hours on Grounds, developing and delivering presentations to student groups, holding individual counseling sessions, and providing a borrower letter that estimates what each student will owe in a monthly payment with their current level of debt,” said Doran. “The financial support we have received will help us launch this student-focused and student-delivered service much more quickly than would otherwise be possible.”

“The peer counseling program will be a free service to UVA students that will help them get on the right track financially and stay there, under the trained guidance of fellow students,” he said.

Besides the fact that students tend to listen more to peer-level advice, another up side of having student counselors is that those students get a great resume-building experience.

SFS team members are gearing up for a busy summer of fine-tuning the program in collaboration with other UVA units like Student Health and the Career Center, as well as recruiting and training student counselors and a program assistant to help run things. “We want to borrow from existing peer-mentoring models at the University to ensure our service fits in well with what students already know,” said Doran.

“We’re grateful to the Jefferson Trust for their support, and grateful to our collaborators across Grounds,” said Steve Kimata, assistant vice president for Student Financial Services.


FUN FACT: The planning of the peer counseling program timeline will be possible in part due to the help of UVAFinance’s rotational program.  UVAFinance team member James Cathro will be rotating out of a stint with University Business Intelligence and into his rotation with SFS; he'll use his well-rounded expertise to help plan out the steps for the pilot. 

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