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UNG offers money management help to students
Guidance seeks to help graduates avoid lifetime of debt
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Students crowd the Student Money Management Center’s table Thursday during new student orientation at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus. The Student Money Management Center aims to provide students with information and education regarding financial issues they will face at college. - photo by David Barnes

UNG’s Student Money Management Center

For more information, call 706-867-3308 or go to:

With a baby on the way last fall, Rachael Oliver wanted to get better control of her finances, but didn’t know where to start.

“I had debt collectors calling me,” said Oliver, who expects to graduate from the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in December. “I was making pretty good money, but I wasn’t spending it wisely. I just knew that with my daughter coming in November (2016) that I needed to get my stuff in order before she got here.”

Oliver had seen flyers about UNG’s Student Money Management Center and decided to make an appointment with Erick Jones, the center’s director. She said one of the first things Jones did was take her to a website that helped her put together a personalized budget.

In a few months, Oliver had paid off creditors and organized her budget in a way that she says will help her long term.

“Once I figured out where my money was going, he helped me come up with goals and plans to help balance everything out better and working toward saving instead of just coming out even every month,” Oliver said. “I really wasn’t even aware of how much money was going to food and things that I really didn’t have to have. Once I realized where my money was going, I was able to fix it and turn it around and start directing my money in better way. I actually got everything in line before I had my daughter.”

Oliver was among the more than 200 students on UNG’s five campuses in the 2016-17 school year who took advantage of one-on-one financial counseling, one of several ways the center helps students with financial issues.

About 1,100 students were served in various ways this school year, a 30-percent increase from the prior year.

“We’re growing rapidly,” Jones said.

The program was the idea of UNG President Bonita Jacobs who started a money management center when she worked as vice president for student development at the University of North Texas University, according to Jones. It was the first program of its kind among Georgia universities.

“We do large group meetings both in the community and on campus as requested,” Jones said. “We’ll go in the classroom if we have an instructor who asks us to come in and speak to their class. We do monthly workshops on all of our campuses on the basics of personal finances with subjects such as budgeting, credit building, long-term saving and investing and managing financial risks.

“What is really impactful is one-on-one counseling sessions with students,” he added. “We can actually get to the root of a student’s needs and help them address it and teach them to address it longterm afterward.”

Jones and Latrisa Degraft-Hanson, a graduate student who also works with Jones, were on the Gainesville campus Thursday afternoon during a new student orientation to give new students information about their services. It was the third orientation they had participated in this week on UNG campuses to make students aware of the program.

“What we really see a lot of is students with general questions like, ‘I don’t know how to do a budget; I know I need one. What’s a credit store? I know they exist and I know I need a good one,’” Jones said. “We try to educate the students and help them put together a plan to meet those goals. Then it’s up to them to implement it and then come back to follow-up.”

In large group settings, Jones said he tries to give students tools to help them throughout their lives.

“In the general student population what we want to do is increase their life skills,” he said. “We want a student thinking about retirement at 22, not 42. I got into financial advising because I wanted to help people address their goals and help them succeed, I found out in private practice it can often be about chasing money as opposed to solving people’s problems and helping them with their goals. This job just really allows me to focus on that aspect of it.”

He added that the college years are an important time to teach healthy financial skills.

“What they really have problems with is they’re kind of delaying the fact that they’ve already beginning their financial life while they’re here in school,” Jones said. “They’re either still relying on their parents for their finances — which is not doing them any good toward building their financial skills — or they’re borrowing large sums of money to go to school and they’re delaying having to pay this back. It doesn’t really seem real to them until they graduate. They’re acquiring debt or they’re not building those skills while they’re in school.”

Catherine, who asked that her last name not be used, came to Jones after graduation in May. She is getting ready to move and start her first job after college and needed skills to handle her finances.

“My dad and scholarships paid for my school,” she said. “I never really had the opportunity to manage money on my own. I was a little uncertain about handling my own paycheck, so I wanted to get a little advice about managing my own money.”

Catherine said her meetings with Jones have given her confidence to handle money.

“I feel I’m equipped with the skills to figure out how to manage money and how to make it work with the limits I set for myself,” she said. “I wish I had known about the center earlier. It’s given me the confidence that I will be able to manage money effectively. He has shown me that money isn’t that scary.”

The center also receives calls to help students who owe money to the university and can’t continue in school or cannot transfer because their transcripts are on hold because of the debt to the school.

“We’ll work with any student who has a question regarding their personal finances,” Jones said. “Whether the student comes in and says, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about getting a credit card, but I don’t know how they work’ or it’s a student having trouble struggling to stay in school because of money, we try to address all issues of personal finance in a student’s students.”

For more information, call 706-867-3308 or go to: 

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