Sharing a Wealth of Knowledge
December 10, 2019—The Office of Student Financial Services (SFS) at Marist handles everything from developing student financial aid packages to managing the on-campus job system. But the office has also taken on the responsibility of promoting long-term financial education. Over the past three years, Assistant Director of Student Financial Services Stefanie Cusano ’16M has been working to change the image of SFS by educating students on personal finance. “We want to change the face of Student Financial Services and have students understand that we are here to offer our wealth of knowledge. Our department does not want students to view coming to SFS as a chore, but more of a resource that can help them both at Marist and after they graduate.”
To encourage more student interaction with the office, Cusano created several entertaining, interactive events to increase students’ awareness of financial challenges that can present themselves after college. In November, the office hosted the “Making Cent$: The Game of Life” event.
Making Cent$ simulated a game-like experience, similar to the board game Life. Marist students picked up personalized folders with their desired career, estimated starting salary, and preferred location to work and live. Cusano learned about the concept from colleagues at SUNY Oneonta, who held a similar event to raise students’ awareness of what to expect after college.
The premise of the game was to visit each of several tables, learn about a financial concept, and budget your money accordingly. Specific tables included graduate school, insurance, student loans, housing (and utilities), transportation, food, health and wellness, and much more. “We wanted to make sure that each student had someone to go to in that specific area of expertise. This included having people with backgrounds in insurance, graduate school, retirement, and so on,” said Cusano. Each student was given “Fox Dollars” to pay for specific necessities, and they could budget their money according to their preferences. Visiting each station, they consulted with experts to ensure that they were making smart financial decisions.
The ultimate goal? Finish the game with cash still on hand and learn the lesson that there’s more to life after college than just getting a job. At the end of the “game,” there was a debriefing about the financial decisions the student participants made. For the attendees, it definitely informed their thinking about what to expect in their life post-Marist.
Chanel Marino ’12/’16M, Assistant Director of Annual Giving in the Office of Advancement, volunteered at the event. “Making Cent$ is an incredible event for students to attend before they graduate. As Marist seeks to prepare students for jobs after college, Student Financial Services seeks to help students understand how to make smart decisions with the money they earn.”
Chanel Marino '12/'16M works with a student at Making Cent$
As part of its financial education programming, SFS also hosts “Fun Financial Fridays” on the first Friday of every month during each semester. This includes pop-up stands all over campus discussing specific financial knowledge, as well as testing students knowledge on various topics such as credit score, loan repayment, and more. Prizes are handed out, and students have the chance to interact with SFS to gain more understanding of what the office offers.
In keeping with the Marist tradition of service, the SFS team also contributes to the local community by visiting high schools and informing both students and parents of their options for affording higher education. Without necessarily promoting Marist itself, Cusano and her colleagues provide educational seminars to those families looking for ways to pay for higher education, whether that is discussing the FAFSA, learning about saving for college, or applying for outside scholarships. SFS wants the community to know that they are there to help. SFS also extends their knowledge to the classroom by talking to classes to help students develop a better understanding of financial aid, financial wellness, and personal finance.
The events on campus have been well attended, and Cusano is committed to having SFS deliver on its promise of not only helping students with their financial needs during their time at Marist, but “also to go above and beyond to ensure that once you leave, you will be educated on how to make those smart financial decisions during your actual ‘game of life.’”