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Wednesday, December 01, 2021
CAMPUS  |  SFC

Santa Fe College’s month-old Financial Wellness Center still relatively unknown to students

In partnership with Vystar Credit Union, the Financial Wellness Center offers free counseling and resources for budgeting, saving and financial planning

Gilbert "Gil" Levy, VyStar Credit Union senior vice president, sits in Santa Fe College's Financial Wellness Center on  Friday, Sept. 22, 2021. This room is the temporary center until remodels due to flooding are completed on the first floor. Levy will be the representative in the center until around December while he asseses the program and its needs.
Gilbert "Gil" Levy, VyStar Credit Union senior vice president, sits in Santa Fe College's Financial Wellness Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2021. This room is the temporary center until remodels due to flooding are completed on the first floor. Levy will be the representative in the center until around December while he asseses the program and its needs.

Seven out of 10 college students report feeling stressed about finances, according to a survey from The Ohio State University’s Office of Student Life.

The Financial Wellness Center is a partnership between Santa Fe College and VyStar Credit Union that offers free financial counseling and resources from budgeting and saving to purchasing and investing for all Santa Fe students. The center opened over a month ago for students overwhelmed by the world of budgets, credit card debt, student loans and financial planning.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, the center is open from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it’s open from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“We want to be available for students in a real-time scenario, where they have someone who’s trusted, that they can call on free of charge, and get some advice and some direction,” said Michael Rathjen, Vystar vice president of School Programs.

In addition to providing financial advice, Vystar has also promised to donate $20,000 per year to the Santa Fe College Foundation for the college to use at its discretion, Rathjen said.

He believes financial education is important for students because many can be taken advantage of by credit card companies.

“We would see that on our end, Vystar, students coming in to apply for their very first loan and already having seven credit cards on their profile,” Rathjen said. “And then not even knowing that when they were signing up for free t-shirts, for free Chick-Fil-A biscuits, they were signing credit card applications.”

He also said financial education has become a taboo subject, which can lead to even more mistakes in the future.

His best advice for students? Plan ahead.

“You can either take the time to prepare for your future, or you will take the time to repair from your past,” Rathjen said.

However, when asked about the Financial Wellness Center, many Santa Fe students had never heard of the resource.

Angelica Scalisi, a 22-year-old SF nursing major, wished Santa Fe had told her more about the service and made students aware that this resource was available for their use.

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“Some people may not know that it’s available,” she said. “I know that financial situations can be a little rough sometimes, especially with COVID and people not having jobs at the moment or may have lost jobs, but I think it would be more beneficial if it was broadcasted.”

Jonathan Box also wasn’t aware of the services. , The 18-year-old SF electrical engineering freshman said he plans to take advantage of the center in the future.

Box believes it’s a great addition because some students worry about funding and often choose Santa Fe for its affordability. This service would help those same students who are underfunded, he said.

A financial aid representative at Santa Fe said none of their coworkers had heard of the Financial Wellness Center.

Colin Benner, coordinator for client services in the Santa Fe Financial Aid Office, said the financial wellness center is just one piece of his plan for financial education for students.

He also wants to work on more financial literacy coaching, a standardized Canvas course and financial wellness presentations.

“We’re very interested from that perspective in the Financial Aid Office in making sure that students have the skills they need to effectively budget, to spend effectively, to get the most out of their money and to borrow as little as possible to be able to finance their education,” Benner said.

He wants students to take an interest in their personal finance now, before they rack up even more debt.

“You can make mistakes now that can have long-term effects on your financial wellness. And while none of that is permanent, it can make it more challenging for students in the future,” Benner said.

Maya Erwin contributed to this report.

Contact Eve Thompson at ethompson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @evealanaa.

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Eve Thompson

Eve Thompson is a third-year journalism major covering Santa Fe. In the past, Eve was a News Assistant on the university desk. When she’s not submitting public records requests or staring at a blank Google doc, Eve can be found on a boat, usually listening to 70s music.


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