New Center To Give Advice On 'Commanding Your Cash'

SMMC logoStudies have found that there is a direct link between the ability of students to stay in school and graduate and their finances, according to Kristy Vienne, director of the Bearkat OneCard office.

“Depending on which study you look at, some studies actually say that finances are the No. 1 reason students drop out,” Vienne said. “Either they can’t afford to go to college anymore, they’ve racked up too much in credit card debt, they are unable to secure their financial aid. There are lots of different factors.”

Because of this, Sam Houston State University has taken steps to ensure that its students have a firm understanding of their personal finances and “command their cash” with the new Student Money Management Center.

The SMMC will offer services such as seminars, interactive workshops and classroom and residence halls presentations, tackling such topics as budgeting, retirement planning, credit, identity theft, avoiding credit card debt, determining future earnings and even financial aid.

In the spring, when the center moves from its temporary location in Lowman Student Center Room 104 to a permanent location, the SMMC will also offer one-on-one confidential counseling, though Vienne said they will help students in emergency situations in the fall by appointment. When a staff is in place, all counselors will receive certification from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education.

“We have mental health counseling on campus, we have physical health counseling on campus, and now this is the financial aspect,” said Vienne, who will also serve as the SMMC director. “It’s kind of that missing piece to help students understand that as a university, we’re here to be more responsible in that area.”

Vienne said the center would take a two-tiered approach in its work with students: proactively by focusing on the importance of management as students come in at orientation, as well as through classroom lectures, and reactively through professional guidance and planning for those who are already in trouble.

“We want to help students in a supportive way, not condemning them, and help them understand how they got where they are,” she said. “We want to help them see that they’re not in it alone.”

With the average student graduating with $36,000 in student loans and $4500 in credit card debt, Vienne said it’s really an issue of the lifestyle choices students make when they enter college.

“It’s helping students understand when they get here that it’s needs versus want,” she said. “A lot of time people say colleges are so expensive, and it’s not really that where students are getting in trouble. It’s the fact that students are wanting immediate gratification with the iPhones and the Coach purse and eating out.”

The top three things that college students spend their money on are food, cell phones and entertainment, and while food is considered a necessity, it’s the means—the eating out instead of cooking at home—that makes it a “want.”

“We want to help students understand that it’s OK to enjoy life, but you also need to live like you’re in college and have reasonable expectations up front,” Vienne said. “We want to help them understand how to make their money work for them instead of them constantly chasing their debt. We want them to be responsible for it.”

With money issues being prevalent in society, students should not feel ashamed if they find themselves in a bind.

“Previously I worked as a broker for Edward Jones. At that time, I really started to see the impact that finances had on people,” Vienne said. “I would see 55-year olds who would come in and want to retire or send their kids to college and were not able to because they did not plan properly. No one ever taught them about finances. It was kind of heart wrenching to see that.

“There was a genuine concern on my part that we needed to do something about this,” she said. “It’s an epidemic that’s not going away. There are 30, 40, 50, 60 year olds who just as scared of understanding this as college students.”

In the parents’ defense, they are trying to help their students understand the repercussions of bad decision-making, Vienne said, though sometimes the message isn’t always clear.

“Seventy-six percent of parents of freshmen coming in say they’ve had a financial conversation with their students, but only 36 percent of those students actually remember having that same conversation,” she said.

The SMMC will have an official kickoff during Financial Literacy Week Sept. 22-26, which will include a ribbon cutting outside its office, located across from the Paw Print.

For more information on the Student Money Management Center, call 936.294.2600, e-mail or visit


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SHSU Media Contacts: Jennifer Gauntt
Aug. 26, 2008
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