Money is an integral part of society, but managing it can be complicated. The OU MoneyCoach program seeks to help students understand everything about money — from finding scholarships and budgeting to choosing from job prospects.
The MoneyCoach program began in the summer of 2017 as a part of the OU Graduation Office. There were just a few coaches, who met with just a fraction of the incoming freshmen. Now, with the program almost fully staffed at seven coaches, they have been able to meet with almost every incoming freshman this past year.
Michael Hinderman, one of the money coaches, said the main focus of the program is to help students with financial planning for college and coach them through the planning process. Along with one-on-one coaching, they also host events throughout the year that focus on different aspects of financial literacy.
“Financial planning with the coaching component in there is really what we're going for,” Hinderman said, “trying to serve students so that they have the best way to pay for school.”
Anthony Stewart, who will be a psychology junior in the fall, started going to the money coaches during the second semester of his freshman year. When he was short $8,000 for school, his money coach helped him find a $10,000 scholarship.
“I see them about once a semester — just talk about everything, make sure everything's on track,” Stewart said. “It was definitely a positive experience. I personally recommend it. It doesn't hurt to sit down for like 20 minutes with someone that could potentially find you a $10,000 scholarship.”
Thando Mpofu, who will be a civil engineering junior in the fall, said the information the money coaches give is important, and they have come to his classes to teach about college debt management and fiscal responsibility.
“They're pretty cool. They know what they're doing. I've met a couple of people who have no idea how to save, have no idea how to invest, have no idea how to maneuver a paycheck,” Mpofu said. “There's a lot of financial ignorance out there. You know ... our school system does not include financial literacy, and the money coaches help.”
Along with meeting one-on-one and hosting financial literacy events, the money coaches have also tried to build their social media presence.
“We're trying to get more people to follow us because we want to get good information to students, but we realize that email is not always the best way,” Hinderman said. “Flyers typically aren’t the best way. So we're trying to do that via social media.”
Now that the program is more established, the coaches have looked for ways to help seniors approaching graduation.
“We've gotten more in front of capstone classes to teach financial education to seniors on the way out, which looks very different,” Hinderman said. “It’s the same stuff that we talk about here, but it's more geared towards ... (graduation) is coming in three months or six months and not four years.”
They also help students decide which job would be best based on the individual's goals and motivations.
“We try to get at, like with coaching and understanding motivation core values, to see what is important to you,” Hinderman said. ”And if these things are (important), then you know, maybe this job would be best because that's ultimately the driving force is the coaching, the individual nature so that people can live into their values.”
Along with reaching out to seniors, Hinderman hopes as the coaches grow, they can start reaching students earlier.
“What we noticed as (we were) meeting with students in the summer — sometimes I was actually still too late, even though they haven't even started class yet,” Hinderman said. “So we've partnered with (Open Educational Resources) to try to be more forward-thinking. The future, I think, is reaching more students overall, but reaching students earlier.”
Hinderman said the main goal of the program is to help people feel comfortable talking about money and their financial situations.
“Having people be able to feel comfortable with their financial situation is extremely important to us,” Hinderman said.
OU is one of the few universities that has a program like this, Hinderman said, and he thinks it’s extremely helpful.
“We just want for students to feel like, when they walk away, they didn't just get a good education, but then they go into their good-paying job and they can manage their money,” Hinderman said. “We want students to be fully equipped when they leave — not just with the degree, but being able to feel very comfortable.”