Thursday, April 11, 2019

Doing more for our students: Peer Financial Counseling

By Dustin Ciraco

“We could be doing more.”

That simple and decisive thought by Student Financial Services’ Communications Manager Chris Doran many months ago has led to the creation of UVA’s Peer Financial Counseling program, a student-led initiative that officially launched in February.

“Our staff in SFS has always done a wonderful job of working with students to combat their financial concerns as they arise,” said Doran.

Melvin Walker (right), a PFC counselor,
meets with studentMy'kal Lofton (left) 
“But it seemed like there was a missed opportunity for students at the University to involve themselves in their personal finances before reaching the ‘crisis’ stage.”

That notion gave Doran and Assistant Vice President for Student Financial Services Steve Kimata the go-ahead to begin searching for sources of outside grant funding to assist with the development of a Financial Wellness Education and Outreach initiative through SFS.

Thanks to generous donations by the Jefferson Trust and UVA Alumnus Tim Ranzetta (founder of Next Gen Personal Finance) given in the spring of 2018, the foundation was finally in place to begin building a program in earnest.

During the summer of 2018, a Steering Committee of eight student volunteers gathered for weekly conference calls with Doran to discuss how to best mold content to fit the needs of current University of Virginia students. Five of those students have remained involved for the entirety of the program’s life cycle and are now fully trained counselors.

“Our first group of counselors was involved in almost every facet of program’s creation, from the specific training areas, to the naming of the program, even the hours that the service would be available,” recalled Doran. 

“It was important to us that this program becomes known as a service for students, by students.”

A major focus of the Peer Financial Counseling program resides in its name – counseling. The counselors receive training on a variety of personal finance topics including budgeting, managing personal credit, student loans, and more, but they do not offer advice.

The service is intended to arm students with the proper tools to make sensible and well-informed decisions about their own personal finances. A Peer Financial Counselor will not tell a student how to invest that $100 they got for their birthday, but rather will build a relationship with them over the course of one or multiple sessions, and help them discover what their financial goals and values are.

The initial class of six counselors has already logged more than 25 one-on-one sessions in the Georges Student Center to date. By the spring of 2020, the Peer Financial Counseling program is slated to have 10 fully trained peer counselors on staff.


For more information on the Peer Financial Counseling program, visit

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