Students learn financial literacy through Money Matters
By: Jennifer Brandon
Pensacola State College (PSC) has had the Financial Literacy Committee since 2010. The committee started with a small group of faculty and staff, concerned about the financial hardships students face, specifically their absence of knowledge when it came to financial matters. The committee has since become much larger, and now involves many community partners and financial institutions.
In Nov. 2016, Jessica Johnson, from the AmeriCorps-volunteers in service to America (VISTA) program joined the financial literacy program at PSC, named Money Matters. By May she had helped 230 students gain knowledge about getting their finances in order, including credit building or repairing, savings, budgeting, loans, scholarship and grant tips.
Johnson suggests the most important first step for students looking to get their finances in order is knowledge. “Make sure you are knowledgeable about where your finances are; keeping track of what you are spending your money on is vital. Everybody has something they like and feel they have to have, but some of these things can be real money drainers.”said Johnson.
“You can still have what you want, but you have to find ways to make it feasible. For example, couponing, buy-one-get-one, and saving for big purchases.”
As a member of AmeriCorps- VISTA, Johnson is required to live within the means of a person living in poverty. She receives a monthly stipend that is equivalent to the poverty level of the county she is working in; for Escambia county, that is $900 a month. This helps her relate to the same financial burdens members of the community face.
Even though PSC has provided her housing on campus, she still has to find ways to stretch out her monthly income. This helps her better serve students or members of the community who are living on poverty level wages themselves.
Johnson said, “The biggest thing I’ve learned is to take advantage of the resources around you. That is huge.”
Johnson has recently created a financial stability coalition that includes local businesses, banks, PSC’s financial aid department, and the United Way of Escambia county. With the coalition, she has an arsenal of resources she can provide to help students meet their financial goals, or repair their financial circumstances.
The coalition meets every other Wednesday upstairs in the PSC library at 9 a.m. These meetings are open to the public.
The Money Matters program encourages student participation, so they can better assess what students want, as well as understand what they need to learn from their finances.
Johnson organizes workshops every month that cover topics such as budgeting and credit repair. The first workshop of this semester was “Car Buying 101” in the Hagler Auditorium.
Rafael Lopez from Sandy Sansing Chevrolet was the guest speaker. Lopez is a PSC alumni and covered topics like preparation when it comes to buying a car, buying vs. leasing, warranties and maintenance. He explained financial terms such as the annual percentage rate that is associated with loans.
“Everybody has to get from point A to point B, so it is my job to help people do that. As PSC alumni I felt it was my responsibility to give back to this school,” said Lopez. “It was important for me not to forget where I came from.”
Lopez said, “The biggest mistake a college student can make while buying a car is not being prepared for the process. Prepare for credit checks and make sure you know your budget.
“Some college students aren’t good about living within their means – they see the glitz and the glamour of certain cars but don’t fully understand the high cost that goes along with them.”
He discourages buy-here-pay-here car dealerships because they typically charge a high interest rate, and since they are the financier of the vehicle, they are not required to report payments to the credit bureau.
Lopez recommends consulting a reputable sales professional before buying a vehicle and getting car loans from financial institutions that do report on credit.
Veronica Burnett is the program director of Caring for Our Community with Catholic Charities in Pensacola. She works with individuals and families to attain financial stability.
Burenett teamed up with Johnson to help setup the Car Buying 101 workshop. “Don’t let the big car dealerships intimidate you, they have a car for everybody.” said Burnette. Just make sure you get a Carfax report and take it to your personal mechanic before buying.”
The next Money Matters workshop will be at the Milton campus on Oct. 17, 2017 at 10:45 a.m. The topic for this event will be “Budgeting for Life After College.”
For more information about this workshop or visit moneymatters.pensacolastate.edu or like their Facebook page, Pensacola State College: Money Matters.