University of South Florida St. Petersburg



Financial Literacy Program Teaches Students to Balance their Budget while Living on their Own

Student walking on campus

A financial literacy program is giving college students a greater grasp of money management as they learn to live on their own. Through one-on-one coaching, class presentations and group workshops, the Advising Financial Literacy Objectives and Training Program, or AFLOAT, provides USF St. Petersburg students educational guidance on everything from personal savings to debt management.

“Students today are much more money conscious because of what they have lived through,” said Bob Reddy, financial education advisor for AFLOAT. “A knowledge of financial literacy is demanded these days.”

The generation of students in college today grew up during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. They also witnessed the spiraling student debt crisis, which recently exceeded $1.5 trillion and counting.

Though conscious of money issues, students can still struggle with balancing budgets or changing money beliefs and behaviors. In the past, overdue bills caused some seniors to delay graduation and left other students unable to register for their next semester classes.

Recently, USFSP began offering small grants to address this issue and aid students in their continuation or completion of school. However, in doing so, the university required students to receive financial counseling.

“These grants were a short-term solution to this problem. What we really wanted was to be proactive and develop a resource so students could see how they ended up in this situation and how to prevent it from happening again,” said Erin Dunn, Campus Director of Financial Aid, Scholarships and Financial Education. “The AFLOAT program was the next step in that progression.”

AFLOAT launched a little over a year ago. It has the ambitious mission of instilling sound money management within the student body so they can achieve their financial goals during college and for a lifetime. It aims to achieve this by focusing on six key areas that college students are likely encountering:

  • Money management: identifying needs versus wants and maintaining a balanced budget;
  • Credit cards, credit reports and identity theft: highlighting sound financial decisions while creating strong credit;
  • Savings and investing: detailing strategies and types of investments
  • Debt management, focusing on payment obligations and what to do if falling behind;
  • Paying for college and financial aid: understanding the differences between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, grants and scholarships; and
  • Federal student loan repayment: knowing the various repayment plans to consider based upon budget.

Since coming on board, Reddy, who has worked as a financial counselor outside of the university environment for more than two decades, has spread the gospel of financial literacy around campus. Working with Lynsee Crichton, a financial aid advisor from the Office of Financial Aid, the two have collaborated across several university departments, student organizations and residence housing to conduct more than 25 workshops for around 470 students, conducted one-on-one coaching sessions with 145 students and participated in resource fairs and other student-centered events. All total, Reddy documents nearly 930 students have been impacted by the program so far.

Survey results provide glowing praise. Nearly 95 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that the program increased their knowledge of budgeting. For 88 percent, it increased understanding on federal student loans while 96 percent felt they learned the basics of financial strategies. All told, 95 percent of students who have engaged with AFLOAT said skills they learned will be used in their everyday life moving forward.

“Going to college means I have to start thinking about saving money for my future. And to know that I have a helpful resource that is there whenever I have financial questions and can help me build a budget and stick to that budget is extremely beneficial,” according to one anonymous student who participated in an AFLOAT workshop.

“Students have been so responsive to this that even those who have graduated are returning,” said Reddy. “During one recent event, we had 11 alumni come back to talk with me about budgeting, money management and loan repayment options.

Since April is financial literacy month, the AFLOAT program is hosting two events to further education and awareness on this critical topic. On April 8, Money Monday at the University Student Center will provide information on money management, budgeting and ways to pay for college. On April 10, a Scholarship Wednesday event will supply information on applying for USFSP privately funded scholarships. Both events are held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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