UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Brad Zanette, questions surrounding how much money he should be saving, spending and using to pay off debt are top of mind as his 2018 commencement date approaches.
“I really wanted to learn how to manage my money before I graduated,” said Zanette, an architectural engineering major and Schreyer Honors College Scholar.
Zanette was proactive and attended a presentation by Penn State’s Financial Literacy and Wellness Center to help him get a better handle on his personal finances. During the interactive session, assistant director Brad Yeckley encouraged students to set up meetings with him to address personal concerns —an offer Zanette would take him up on several months later.
Through their one-on-one interactions, Zanette was able to get answers to his specific money management questions and was pointed to resources on opening a credit card account as well as scholarship information. The result would prove to have an immediate impact on his finances.
“The center not only helped steer me in the right direction, it made me think about opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have considered,” said Zanette.
Through the scholarship resources, Zanette was able to pay for an entire semester’s worth of tuition, plus half of another semester.
“The scholarship money was sorely needed. Now, I’m in a very awesome position,” said Zanette, who also works part-time as a project engineer for local construction companies.
Taken together, these experiences gave Zanette a better appreciation for the tools and knowledge needed to manage money, and he plans to use the resources Yeckley presented as he continues to learn the ropes of financial wellness.
As for Yeckley, he finds it rewarding to work with students and provide them with “a skill set that will allow them to live the lives they ultimately desire.”
“There are thousands of college graduates across this country who are making decent wages but are still struggling,” said Yeckley. “Not every student I reach is going to be wealthy from a dollars perspective, but armed with what our center provides, they are able to do the things they are passionate about while having a sense of financial security and freedom.”
Among their services are financial literacy presentations and workshops, like the one Zanette attended. Students can request these sessions for their clubs and groups and have them tailored to the needs of the audience, addressing anything from budgeting, student loans, credit cards, car shopping and more.
Students also can contact the center to ask questions to staff to help address their real-world financial challenges, but should be prepared to be engaged in the process.
“I believe in challenging students to think a bit more critically about the choices and decisions they are making with their money while they’re here at Penn State,” said Yeckley.
A robust set of online services, including self-study modules and monthly webinars, combine to create one of the strongest university financial literacy programs in the country, according to center director Daad Rizk.
For Rizk, the goal of these programs is to “provide students with the resources they need to make healthy financial decisions, with the aim of building financial security and freedom.”
“Life is more costly without a financial literacy education, and it is our moral obligation to give this education to our students,” said Rizk.
These services are set to grow as the center moves to a new administrative home within Penn State Undergraduate Education, and a centrally located office in Grange Building. Until July 2017, the center had been part of Penn State Outreach and Online Education.
According to Rizk, current programming available to students, including graduate, Commonwealth Campus, and Penn State World Campus students, will remain but steadily become “bigger and better” with the hiring of additional staff. A new financial literacy counselor will serve as a liaison to Commonwealth Campus students, and another will specifically address student challenges related to access and affordability.
One of Penn State President Eric Barron’s University-wide initiatives focuses on the theme of access and affordability. The Financial Literacy and Wellness Center directly supports this initiative by providing students with the skills they need to manage their money, allowing them to ultimately acquire less debt for their education and gain a firm understanding of loan repayment processes.
Students interested in growing their financial acumen are encouraged to visit financialliteracy.psu.edu to request a presentation, get help, take a self-study module, or view the upcoming webinar schedule.
“Saving and Investing” will be the topic of the next webinar from noon to 1 p.m on Oct. 31. It can be accessed via Zoom from the Financial Literacy and Wellness Center website. Webinars are held on the last Tuesday of each month and cover a variety of topics of interest to many students.
For more information, visit financialliteracy.psu.edu.
Mike Dawson of Penn State’s Outreach and Online Education contributed to this article.