Training, professional development, and certification for practitioners and programs.
Local, state, and national stakeholder networks that support and develop practitioner efforts.
Service delivery models and the underlying data systems that support them.
Sonya Britt is an associate professor of personal financial planning at Kansas State University who researches the outcomes associated with financial counseling and the impact of physiological stress in financial planning and counseling.
Jodi Kaus is the Director of Powercat Financial Counseling at Kansas State University which focuses on peer-to-peer student financial education.
44 Wall Street, Suite 605
New York, NY 10005
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Powercat Financial Counseling (PFC) at Kansas State University (KSU; population of approximately 25,000 students) began in 2009 as the first peer-to-peer college financial education program in Kansas. PFC trains students in financial-related academic programs to serve fellow students with free individual financial counseling, group financial education, online financial tools, and interactive financial events. PFC has experienced tremendous growth in services year to year and has been recognized by the White House and U.S. Education Secretary as a model financial literacy program to emulate.
The success and leadership of PFC is attributed to its high standards of quality control and its impact on the integrity of the research data collected since its inception. A semester of rigorous training is required of a student prior to becoming a peer financial counselor. Students complete assignments within an online learning management system and are paired with a peer financial counselor who provides monitoring and feedback during practice client sessions. Assessment quizzes are given to students after training modules to ensure their knowledge of key concepts of counseling procedures and relevant topical areas such as student loans, credit, budgeting and job offer analysis.
PFC has articulated student learning outcomes that are measurable and commensurate with peer-to-peer service learning outcomes. Results are measured to assess the process and application of the students’ direct experiences applying their classroom knowledge and training into a service experience within the PFC peer financial counseling program. Narrative feedback and quantitative ratings provided by trainees, peer counselors, clients and service recipients inform and improve the process each academic term. Accountability measures are important to assuring standardization and professionalism in peer-to-peer financial counseling as other educational institutions begin to create similar programs.
After the first year of programming, a paperless client record system was developed to enhance the overall experience and simulate industry field practice of client management via online tools and resources. Furthermore, physical space constraints and having multiple locations around campus made the storage of paper files impractical. Students now request an appointment with PFC through their student information system (SIS) account. Peer counselors also use SIS to log their client interactions and recommendations for further oversight and transition between different peer counselors. The University is committed to helping students enhance their financial literacy and supported the need to create a streamlined intake process within SIS offering full support of its Information Systems Office for development of this new technology. Other campus entities with similar student intake needs can benefit from the creation of these new technological processes.
The SIS process not only ensures quality control but informs the research aspects of the program. Demographic data (e.g., gender, age, race, marital status, number of children, grade level, academic major, housing situation, first generation student status, receipt of financial aid) is pulled from the student’s SIS account into a spreadsheet for downloading by the PFC director and the assigned peer financial counselor. This is tied with a set of questions designed by the PFC team about the student’s reason for seeking help and their financial status.
After indicating available appointment times in the SIS account, students are asked if they are willing to complete an additional survey to assist with research through PFC. They are redirected to an external surveying system (Qualtrics), which is tied to the SIS data (stripped of identifying information) and available for download by the PFC team. The research survey consists of questions regarding financial stress, financial attitudes and behaviors, financial knowledge, locus of control, and depression. A follow-up survey nearly identical to the original research survey is sent two months after the initial meeting via the same external surveying system, which is automatically linked to the intake information and initial research survey responses.
The data collection and research process has been used in multiple levels of program management. First, the research outcomes have been instrumental in securing permanent funding for the program through central university administration. Results have shown that PFC is associated with reduced financial anxiety and increased financial satisfaction and subjective financial knowledge two months after their initial meeting, which are large contributors to retention rates.
Secondly, PFC is a peer financial counseling program with students-in-training to become financial advisors and counselors. The data collected allows the student counselor to obtain a fuller understanding of the counseling situation, possibly engage them in the referral process for issues beyond their skill set, and receive immediate feedback on the effectiveness of their services. Peer counselors self-identify increased skills in public speaking, interpersonal communication, personal finance knowledge, and problem solving skills. These skills are often standardized as desirable by professional financial planning associations. Educational programs like PFC promote best practices, innovative approaches and effective delivery of financial education informing the field of financial counseling as a profession.
Finally, without research, practice cannot be validated or replicated. With a constant change in financial counselors, it is important to have a reliable system to collect and store data and to assess the effectiveness of how the counseling is being delivered. Through the rigid training the counselors receive, this can be accomplished with the system set in place by PFC.
In six short years, Powercat Financial Counseling has grown from an idea to an operable, funded peer financial counseling program. Data from the research surveys are reported to university administrators each semester. Students report a high level of satisfaction with services received and are showing improved financial attitudes and behaviors after seeking help, which has been used as support for why PFC needed a permanent presence on campus. Training and operating procedures have ensured that we hold ourselves accountable to our mission of educating college students on personal finance issues and set us apart as a leader in campus-based program development. This ongoing longitudinal dataset continues to be used to improve services, train graduate students in research methodology, and publish research for the broader academic community and financial counseling profession.
44 Wall Street, Suite 605 New York, NY 10005 646.362.1645 phone 646.590.8743 fax
44 Wall Street, Suite 605, New York, NY 10005
646.362.1645 phone 646.590.8743 fax