Student mentors take on financial literacy challenge


(L-R) GSB president Dakota Hoben, CyGold president Gregory Hunt and GSB vice president Jared Knight were instrumental in founding CyGold. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Dakota Hoben and Jared Knight made their intentions clear during their inauguration last spring as president and vice president, respectively, of the Government of the Student Body (GSB). GSB has been working to increase the university's financial literacy offerings, but the duo wanted students to take the debt-management fight directly to their fellow students.

The result: CyGold, a student organization focused on financial literacy peer education. The group was founded last fall and will begin making presentations in residence halls, fraternities and sororities this spring.

While Hoben and Knight are pleased that the average debt for last spring's graduates (with debt) fell below $30,000 for the first time in six years to $29,455, they hope to see that number continue to fall. And they see CyGold as an important variable.

"GSB and the university have been trying to align everything with curbing student debt," Knight said. "And while the Financial Counseling Clinic, the Office of Student Financial Aid and the Accounts Receivable Office have been doing some programming, we've never had a peer group that's actually gone out and talked to students where they live.

"It's previously been a matter of students getting into [debt] trouble and then getting help, instead of this preventative thing," he said.

"The peer-to-peer effort isn't a new idea. I think we're just finally getting to the implementation stage," Hoben said. "There's been a lot of work that was done before us to get these pieces aligned."

Trial run in early March

Three students from the CyGold team made a trial PowerPoint presentation to GSB's executive cabinet on March 7. It included:

  • Summary of the student debt problem at Iowa State
  • Warning signs of financial problems
  • Tips on how students can budget better
  • Financial aid options
  • Campus resources where students can get more financial help

The content was developed with the Office of Student Financial Aid.

"The students have taken all the information that we've talked about and they put it into one giant PowerPoint," said Jennifer Schroeder, an adviser in student financial aid who advises CyGold. "Their intention is that, based on the request that they get, they're going to use components of the presentation to address those specific topics. I think they're planning on about half an hour for each individual presentation."

There's already interest in it from student groups.

"I've contacted both the Interfraternity Council and the Collegiate Panhellenic Council presidents, and they've expressed interest in the group and spreading the word around their chapters," said Gregory Hunt, CyGold president and a freshman GSB senator. "I've also heard from other fraternity and sorority leaders, and maybe five or six community advisers within Friley Hall."

Hunt said he's making contact with other hall directors and community advisers to get the CyGold team on their hall meeting agendas.

Expansion plans

Schroeder said there are plans to expand CyGold's visibility through a greater web presence and a Facebook page. They'll also have a CyGold email address that students can use to request a session.

Hunt also has ideas of how the program may expand over his four years on campus.

"I guess my supreme goal -- the dream that is in my head right now -- is to eventually get to the level of an academic tutor, but instead of academics, you're teaching financial literacy," Hunt said.

Preemptive strike

Hoben also would like to see CyGold eventually work in tandem with ISU's Financial Counseling Clinic, but offer a different kind of service.

"The counseling service is important, but those are the students who are already in trouble," Hoben said. "So this is going to focus more on the preventative side and the education side, and I think that's important."