Financial Services launches new platform
Loans and budgets can be a source of stress for students trying to navigate their finances for the first time. With the launch of SALT, an online financial literacy resource, the Office of Student Financial Services is looking to put students’ fears to rest.
“The topic of money gets people scared, and I would say that probably most of the time, we’re talking to the parents and not the students,” Executive Director of Student Financial Services Sherri Avery ’95 said in an interview with the Justice. Students “don’t know what to come in and ask because the parents want to do all of it, which is ok, but then you end up leaving college not knowing some things, and SALT can help with that.”
SFS previously used a similar online platform, Financial Avenue, which offered a series of courses for students. There were almost 500 students signed up and completing coursework, but that number eventually stagnated, Avery said.
“We just found that [Financial Avenue] was limiting, because there were only a certain number of courses, and there wasn’t any new material. It was just you finished the courses and that was pretty much all you could do,” she explained. “And the courses were really good … but once you got through the course, there was nothing more you could do with the product and then you were off on your own.”
SALT — the result of a partnership with Massachusetts nonprofit American Student Assistance — offers loan and debt management tools in addition to online courses, forums and articles.
“You just couldn’t do that in the other system,” Avery said, adding that the constantly updated resources and forums make the platform more engaging. “There’s a nice, dynamic community, and it’s always moving, which is I’m sure what students are wanting to see,” she said.
The website offers a diagnostic pre-course that identifies the areas in which a user may be lacking, tailoring articles and materials to each user’s individual needs, Avery said. SALT also employs a chat feature that allows users to ask the website’s staff for help with financial issues.
More importantly, SALT serves as a resource for students, graduates and parents alike, Avery said, adding that the tool can even be helpful for those looking to, say, purchase a house.
Financial Services announced SALT’s arrival in an Oct. 10 email to students, and outreach efforts are already underway.
According to Avery, Assistant Director of Student Services Tim Brown has begun doing presentations across campus about the resource, and he also teaches a Senior Year Experience course that employs the tool. Additionally, there are peer counselors trained in SALT who can teach other students.
Avery stressed that while the website is not a replacement for the Financial Services office, “at like two in the morning, this is something that [students] can go on and look at without having to send an email or trying to leave a phone message.”
—Liat Shapiro contributed reporting.