For the staff at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, financial education is a huge part of building student success.
'A lot of students who come to our school are first-generation students. College is their first opportunity, and really it's their first job,' says Samuel Lopez, coordinator of Jay Express Services at John Jay College. 'They might get a paycheck from work study, and they don’t know how to budget or save it; students can end up living from paycheck to paycheck.'
Lopez works for a division of the enrollment management services office called Jay Express, a one-stop center for students who have questions for, or who need to complete transactions with, the admissions office, the bursar, financial aid, testing, and so on.
John Jay College has been using CashCourse for about five years, but this is Lopez's first year taking over as the main CashCourse facilitator on his campus. The college serves a diverse population, including many veterans, international students, and first-generation students from all over the country, as well as a large adult and nontraditional population.
'Every Wednesday and Thursday I teach a financial literacy class during community hour, an hour during the day where students don't have to attend any classes but can do whatever it is they want to do,' says Lopez. 'That's when a lot of departments do games and activities for students.'
Lopez usually gets between 15 and 20 students for each class, or 30-40 students each week.
'I like having students find an article on CashCourse to teach to the class,' he says. 'They’re teaching each other, and they're teaching themselves.'
John Jay College won a $1,000 departmental grant in the 2014 CashCourse Championship, a competition between CashCourse schools to see which campus could enroll the most students in the CashCourse program. Thanks in large part to Lopez’s focus on using students to connect with their peers, John Jay College enrolled the most students out of the 391 participating campuses.
'I had our office's work-study students get involved. They went out during community hour or during the workday and got students to sign up for CashCourse,” says Lopez. 'In our building's atrium, we set up a CashCourse booth staffed with work-study students who would talk about the program and explain what students can do with it.'
Peer connections can be a valuable tool in getting students to think about personal finance because of how frequently students are able to see and talk to one another.
'A lot of the time, it's better when students talk to other students because of how many interactions they can have,' Lopez says. 'The students that work with Jay Express Services interact with students every day. [During the CashCourse Championship] they asked professors if they could talk about CashCourse at the beginning or end of class, and they asked students to sign up for a CashCourse account.'
CashCourse has been a helpful tool in Lopez's financial literacy classes, and he recommends reaching out to others on campus who can take part in engaging students.
'It's so important to have the support of your colleagues and the students you work with who will go out and promote the program,' he says, 'and I think CashCourse is very important for college students.'