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Martin Luther College

Martin Luther College: A Personalized Approach to Financial Literacy

JoElyn Krohn, the financial literacy coordinator at Martin Luther College, understands the importance of teaching students money management for life during and after college. MLC is a liberal arts college in New Ulm, Mn., with an emphasis on teacher education and pastoral preparation.  

Krohn explains, “Students going into ministry, teaching or becoming a pastor, really need to understand their finances because their income is set by the synod and is often much less than a public school teacher. Their budgets will be tight with a small margin of error for any kind of financial mishaps. Having a better financial understanding also helps them become a better pastor leading a church or a principal leading a school.”

With these special circumstances in mind, Krohn set up a program that would reach students at pivotal stages. With support from the financial aid office and faculty, MLC launched their financial literacy programming in the 2015-16 academic year.

“We require first year, transfer, and graduating students to meet with the financial literacy coordinator for one-on-one sessions. Sophomores and juniors can request these meetings, but it is not required for them,” Krohn says.  

The topics are customized for each student’s particular stage in life and addresses challenges they might be facing. 

Krohn explains, “First year students review their loan totals, create an account with their servicer, learn benefits of paying off interest, and get estimates on what they need to borrow for upcoming years. Seniors look at transitioning to life after college, specifically a review of loan totals, estimated loan repayment, and creating a budget based on their projected income and expenses.”

Campus support has been invaluable in setting up this robust effort. Initially, it was a challenge to get buy-in from departments outside of financial aid, but Krohn persisted. Her efforts paid off. 

Krohn explains, “Financial literacy sounds like a no-brainer to those in financial aid, but it has been challenging to get support campus-wide to make this a dedicated, paid position. College budgets are very tight, so it was difficult approving a full-time position with the board and other administrators.  Providing detailed information regarding the program goals and content to the faculty helped gain their support on campus. They have been great advocates for our work.'

In addition to these one-on-one sessions, MLC incorporates CashCourse as an online component and has general information sessions open to the student body.

Krohn says, “We also have group sessions two-three times per year. We partner with local credit unions and a financial coach to give presentations on topics like credit, identity theft, and investing. We use CashCourse by requiring all students to complete certain assignments based on their grade level.”

CashCourse has been an integral part of the programming at Martin Luther College. With Krohn’s many job responsibilities, CashCourse has done much of the legwork for her.

“We’ve looked at other programs, but many are almost too in-depth. I really like CashCourse because it has very relevant and manageable information for the students. It is a really great fit for schools that are starting out with financial literacy. It has so many excellent resources and isn’t a huge time commitment,” Krohn explains.

January 2016