UNT SMMC Director Represents University at Texas Senate Hearing
UNT Student Money Management Center Director Paul Goebel was asked to provide public comment on behalf of the university at the Texas Senate's Committee on Higher Education hearing on April 25. Video of the hearing is available here. The following are Goebel's remarks:
My name is Paul Goebel and I am the founding and managing director of the Student Money Management Center at the University of North Texas. Thank you for the opportunity to come before you today.
Research has shown that students are more likely to drop out of school because of “outside pressures” – such as finances and employment pressures – than poor grades. The University of North Texas created the Student Money Management Center in the Fall Semester of 2005 with the goal to streamline all financial literacy education services under the oversight of one dedicated office serving as a single point entry to eliminate frustrations and confusion among students seeking financial support, counsel and advice.
The purpose of our center is to help Eagles soar. We fulfill our mission by providing students with financial literacy education services across three major program areas. Each area provides students with differing content and levels of interaction. The areas are designed to serve students holistically based on their knowledge, skills, and abilities as related to their personal financial lives. The three program areas are:
- Financial Readiness Program – programming and resources provided in an interactive educational environment both on-campus and online;
- Financial Wellness Program – students have access to personal coaching sessions led by trained staff and peer mentors;
- And our Financial Support Program – emergency loan programs to help student address emergency or unanticipated expenses related to cost of attendance;
The ultimate goal for our programs is to help students assess their financial situations and skills today, in order to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to take ownership of their future financial responsibilities and lives.
After more than twelve years one constant has remained – student success. Every semester our team of four full-time employees and eight student employees is helping an ever-increasing number of students learn that financial independence begins with financial responsibility. Last academic year alone, the center realized more than 15,000 contacts with students. Our team also realized more than 2,500 contacts with parents and community members.
We learned quickly one size does not fit all when it comes to financial literacy education and students. The scope of our student-centered programming has grown over the years to include today – outreach programming, personal coaching services, online resources, and emergency loan programs. Our service and concern for students are not constrained within the property lines of the university. We have adapted and enhanced our services and programs to connect with students whether they are sitting across a desk from a team member or thousands of miles across the globe engaged in a study abroad experience or starting a new job.
In addition to institutional and divisional awards, we have been fortunate to receive national recognition on behalf of both our university and the State of Texas for our efforts and innovation. This recognition would not have been possible without the advocacy, support, and collaborative spirit shared by numerous on- and off-campus partners. This support has allowed the UNT Student Money Management Center to become one of the nation’s best collegiate financial literacy programs. My team is proud of the fact that more than 250 community colleges, professional certification programs, junior colleges, public and private 4-year universities over the years have reached out to our center to learn about our program model and benefit from our experiences and insights.
We have been strategic and intentional in the center’s growth and expansion. Ensuring our programs and services remain relevant to the lives and personal financial situations of our students. We have also developed specific initiatives to address the State’s 60-by-30 Fourth Goal – Student Debt. We developed programs to align with the life path of students from access to retention to graduation and life as successful professionals or graduate school candidates. Our team provides local middle and high schools with college planning and student loan entrance counseling workshops. UNT students benefit from a dynamic array of financial readiness, wellness, and support programs accessible both on-campus and online. We help graduates and alumni address new financial realities they will be facing as they prepare for life after college with personalized student loan exit counseling and transition planning coaching sessions. Our service to students truly reflects a continuum of support and commitment across the entire student experience.
The greatest evidence of the difference we are making in the lives of students can be found in student evaluations and testimonials collected through our assessment instruments:
- 96% of students agreed that their coaching session will help them succeed in college;
- 94% of students agreed that they can more easily focus on their academics at UNT because their financial concerns were addressed by an emergency loan;
- And 94% of students agreed that they learned valuable information in presentations.
Has our journey been without challenges? Of course not, but at the University of North Texas our center has been blessed to have the support of the entire campus community from the president’s suite to every college and department. When I am asked what are some common roadblocks that a collegiate financial literacy program may encounter, five issues come to mind:
- Student Misperceptions – students believing they don’t need help until a financial problem becomes a crisis or that their perceived money management knowledge and skills are adequate when in reality they are not;
- Resource Constraints – including funding, staffing, and space;
- A “One Size Fits All” Mentality – the misperception that one type of program or delivery model will meet the needs of all students;
- A Reluctance to Collaborate – when departments or divisions have an aversion to work together and such reluctance is firmly entrenched in the organization’s culture;
- And an Absence of Campus Buy-In – A lack of understanding, integration, and support across the organization.
One life lesson my team has applied to our service to students is to play to our strengths by collaborating with partners wanting to break the cycle of financial illiteracy that is negatively impacting the lives of far too many students; rather than, to allow challenges – whether real or imagined – hold us hostage and stagnate any progress forward.
In closing, I would like to share one of my most favorite quotes whenever someone tells me that Texas is not a leader when it comes to collegiate financial literacy programs. The quote comes from one of our state’s founding fathers – Sam Houston – who wrote, “A leader is someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improve the system they live under.”
More than one hundred and fifty years later, the State of Texas has the privilege and honor of such leaders in the form of programs such as the UNT Student Money Management Center and similar programs on other campuses across our state. These educational programs are building a new generation of leaders among our young people – empowered through financial literacy education to meet the financial challenges and responsibilities today as students and tomorrow as successful graduates. With the continued support of administrations and our state legislature, I truly believe the best is yet to be for collegiate financial literacy education within our state.
Thank you for allowing me to share my comments today.
For more information on the Student Money Management Center, visit https://studentaffairs.unt.edu/student-money-management-center.