Metropolitan Community College

At Metropolitan Community College (MCC), Sabrina Osborn has reached students  directly with financial education through student loan entrance counseling. However, she has worked to expand MCC’s financial literacy offerings beyond her department of Student Financial Services. Thanks to her efforts, MCC now includes financial education in their first year seminar and has ten peer mentors coordinating outreach throughout their five campuses. Osborn’s financial literacy work has been centered on flexibility and meeting students where they are at.

When the First Year Experience seminar was created at MCC, financial literacy was identified as a focus area. To cover this, instructors relied on a PowerPoint presentation that was shared each semester, but many did not feel comfortable teaching the topic because they did not have formal personal finance training. Osborn saw CashCourse as a solution to this issue and worked as an interdepartmental advocate to get the program included.

Osborn says, “When we started using CashCourse, I was excited since (our First Year Experience) instructors could just assign activities and it does the teaching.”

Instructors now use CashCourse coursework modules in conjunction with their first year seminar to help engage students with personal finance. This inclusion helped MCC to be one of the CashCourse top five schools for web engagement in May 2019.

Osborn has also focused on student outreach and has been able to increase her capacity considerably thanks to the recent addition of peer mentors. The Missouri Department of Education offered a pilot program that helped fund 10 peer mentors at MCC. The school paid the students and the state reimbursed their department for their wages.

In addition to providing financial support, the state also helped train these students. The state department taught sessions to the students on academic, financial and personal success. They covered the general information students would need to know as a peer mentor, and MCC staff provided their school-specific trainings.

Osborn has reiterated that peer mentors have made an impact with their work.

“It's been so helpful to see what they see. They can tap into their network and wave people down. These are student leaders who know lots of people and are able to invite them to interact. I've been really impressed with my peer mentors this first term,” says Osborn.

Osborn was able to identify potential peer mentors by asking departments to recommend student leaders. They ended up placing three of these mentors at the main campus and two at each of the other campuses. Osborn says they have had to be flexible in their efforts.

She says, “We thought we would have a lot of appointments and have a lot of one-on-one time, but this term was a lot of just doing outreach. We did a lot of outreach tables with the peer mentors to let students know these resources are available to them.”

They have specifically found great success with a table-top Plinko game at information tables. Students get to drop a disc for every financial literacy question they get right. This also gives the peer mentors the opportunity to refer students to CashCourse.

“Tables in the cafeteria have been a great strategy for us. I used some of the questions from CashCourse courses and quizzes to create the trivia games. Students would be like, ‘Wow, I didn't know that!’ and then we would refer them CashCourse,” explains Osborn

These informal meetings have been a big focus for MCC after struggling to get students to attend in-person workshops. The peer mentors have helped expand the reach and have allowed the department to tap into those existing social networks. Osborn says it has been a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for her campuses. She emphasizes patience with cultivating a program.

She says, “Stick with it. Don't get frustrated. Try something different if you feel like throwing in the towel. If you think something really can work, your instincts are probably right. Be patient even if it's slow to start.”

August 2019