April is National Financial Literacy Month

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
FLAMES Student Mentors Image

Student mentors of the Financial Literacy & Money Education by Students (FLAMES) team prepare for the "Extreme Couponing" mini-workshop.

Student loan debt at Truckee Meadows Community College has been reduced by almost $7 million in three years, and there is greater awareness of financial issues campus-wide, thanks to the efforts of staff and student mentors.

The staff of TMCC’s Financial Aid, Scholarships and Student Employment department are observing National Financial Literacy Month in April, along with Financial Literacy & Money Education by Students (FLAMES) mentors.

National Financial Literacy Month is celebrated with events and campaigns by colleges across the U.S. such as Ohio Dominican University, University of Nevada, Reno, and TMCC.

“Students at TMCC are now much more aware of their finances,” said Sharon Wurm, Director of Financial Aid. “Some are taking fee refunds and paying their rent ahead, instead of waiting to pay. Students are saying that they know better how to plan out their finances through college.”

The FLAMES student mentorship program began in the 2013-2014 school year, arising from a grant awarded to TMCC by USA Funds.

In their second year, nine student mentors together with their advisor, Jeanette Smith, Financial Literacy Specialist, have developed activities to engage the College community in greater financial awareness.

Films, Workshops and Meet and Greets Will Be Part of Financial Literacy Month

The FLAMES team is offering a meet and greet called “Project M&M” on Wednesday, Apr. 22, 11:30 a.m.-noon at the FLAMES center, Red Mountain Building, third floor. Students can drop by the large lobby area outside of RDMT 315 for free sandwiches and M&Ms and to meet the student mentors.

They are showing the movie "Spent: Looking for Change,” following the M&M event, at noon in RDMT 122. The mentors have also made the movie available to more than 18 instructors who have invited them to come to classrooms and lead a discussion afterwards about topics shown in the movie.

“Students have bonded by April and are more comfortable talking about sensitive money matters,” Smith said. “It is also great that the discussion is led by members of their age group with whom they most likely share interests and concerns.”

On FAFSA Day, free help is offered with this financial aid form, Wednesday, Apr. 29, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in RDMT 122. Students are asked to sign up for a 20-minute time prior to event day. Sign-up sheets are at the FLAMES center on the 3rd floor of the Red Mountain Building.

Many mini-workshops are being held at the FLAMES 3rd floor center in April. Topics include:

  • Extreme Couponing, Thursday, Apr. 16, noon-12:30 p.m.
  • Being Smart with Money, Tuesday, Apr. 21, noon-12:30 p.m.
  • Understanding Student Loans, Thursday, Apr. 23, 10-10:30 a.m.
  • Scholarships, Tuesday, Apr. 28, 10-10:30 a.m.
  • Credit Reports, Thursday, Apr. 30, 10-10:30 a.m.

Student Debt has Decreased More Substantially at TMCC Than in National Totals

American student loan debt had been steadily increasing for 20 years, peaking in 2010-2011, Wurm said. Default rates were increasing in an economy that had not yet recovered from the Great Recession.

TMCC students borrowed $17,148,652 during the 2010-2011 academic year.

“We put in a series of measures such as up-front entrance counseling, having students fill out a loan request form, and printing out their student loan history,” Wurm said. “They are asked to watch two online financial literacy videos.”

The methods showed considerable success.

“As a result, for 2013-2014, our loans were $10,427,694, a 39 percent reduction from 2011-2012,” Wurm said.
She adds that factoring in a smaller amount of students that are in the pool to request loans still results in a sizable decrease in debt.

“Our enrollment has dropped a little, but not 39 percent, so students are borrowing less,” Wurm said. “They’re borrowing only what they really need. Fewer take out the max … this is huge. Nationally, debt only went down about two percent from last school year.”

For more information about Financial Aid, Scholarships and Student Employment, FLAMES events or student mentors, call 775-673-7263.