Paying for college can be an overwhelming financial strain for students and their families. Scholarships, grants and loans can ease the burden, but understanding the options and financial terminology can be challenging.
For help, students and families can look to the Stanislaus State Financial Aid and Scholarship Office. There, they’ll find the Financial Wellness Program and plenty of direction on how to access financial aid, choose loans and avoid costly financial missteps.
This fall, the program hired three Stan State students as peer mentors to inform students on financial matters. Peer mentors Josue Perez, Jeff Fu and Karen Ramos Lupercio, will make in-class presentations and share information on social media, in one-on-one meetings and at informational tables on campus. A fourth student, Leandra Tankersly, has been hired as a financial wellness assistant to work directly with the financial aid coordinator.
All four new hires say they are looking forward to learning more about financial aid and sharing knowledge.
“When I learned about this position, I thought it was a great opportunity for me to grow as an individual and a chance to help other students,” said Fu, a business administration major in his senior year.
The program benefits students because they tend to be more receptive and comfortable asking questions when they hear financial information from a peer, according to Landy Gonzalez-Hernandez, Financial Wellness Program coordinator and financial aid advisor.
“We are here to help,” Gonzalez-Hernandez said. “Students can come in and speak to us in a safe environment, free of judgment and have all their questions answered.”
The Financial Wellness Program is also offering a series of workshops to help students budget, build a strong credit history and understand how emotions can influence their spending decisions.
Once they graduate, students can continue to access the program to manage their student loans and work out issues. It’s a valuable service, as one alumna found out when she received a letter from a company offering to consolidate her student loans.
“To me, the offer almost sounded too good to be true,” said Brandy Bernal, a 2018 graduate who now works in Southern California.
For advice, she turned to Gonzalez-Hernandez, who quickly determined that Bernal didn’t need the company’s expensive help to lower her payments; she could do it for free by restructuring her payment plan directly with her loan servicer.
“I saved $600 in unnecessary fees,” said Bernal. “I’m now on a payment plan that works best for me, and I did it all for free with Landy’s help.”
The Financial Wellness Program maintains an active social media presence using the handle @stanfinancialwellness. It posts workshops and events on its Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as on the Stanislaus State website. Gonzalez-Hernandez urges students and parents to stay informed by checking these sites regularly.