Smeal Finance student leads creation of Student Financial Education Center

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Concerned with soaring student loan debt and what he perceived as a lack of financial literacy among college students, Penn State Smeal College of Business finance student Anand Ganjam proposed an effort last spring to provide students with personal finance education. Earlier this semester, the Student Financial Education Center (SFEC) opened its doors in 309 Paterno Library on the University Park campus.

As a member of the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA), Ganjam suggested opening a financial literacy center where students could receive peer-to-peer financial education.

“I thought that students might be less intimidated talking about their finances with other students than with professors or University staff,” he said.

“Anand really approached this project in a professional way. It was important to him that it be sustainable -- that it could be an ongoing operation that continued to help students even after he graduates.”

-- Lauren Reiter, Business Librarian, Penn State

In April of last year, Ganjam set up a meeting with business librarian Lauren Reiter to talk through ideas and the feasibility of the project. He then spent the summer working on a business plan and a strategic plan for the center.

“Anand really approached this project in a professional way,” said Reiter. “It was important to him that it be sustainable — that it could be an ongoing operation that continued to help students even after he graduates.”

Through Reiter, he also connected with Daad Rizk, Penn State financial literacy coordinator, and Cathy Bowen, professor of agriculture and extension education, consumer issues.

“Dr. Cathy Bowen and I created the curriculum, conducted an intensive training, and prepared the tests for the Student Financial Educators to pass,” said Rizk.

“I am a firm believer that students are comfortable talking to other students and they do share and fight for common causes. We want them to exhibit leadership and full participation in issues that affect them socially and economically. Financial literacy is a skill for life.”

-- Daad Rizk, Penn State financial literacy coordinator

This semester, the SFEC has six trained peer educators and eight in training. All currently trained peer educators are part of the Penn State Finance Society.

“I am a firm believer that students are comfortable talking to other students and they do share and fight for common causes,” said Rizk. “We want them to exhibit leadership and full participation in issues that affect them socially and economically. Financial literacy is a skill for life.”

The peer educators can talk to students about scholarships, the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid), grants, the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, and more, but the educators do not give advice.

“The educators are there to be a resource for information,” said Ganjam. “We’re careful — and trained — not to give financial advice.”

Reiter, Rizk and Bowen serve as advisers to the SFEC, along with Mary Edgington, senior director of union and student activities, and Brad Yeckley, financial aid coordinator.

For more information on the SFEC or to make an appointment with a peer educator, visit www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/business/sfec.html.

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Last Updated March 11, 2014