BALTIMORE — There's no question that the past year and a half have caused financial struggles for those across the country, but one population has consistently been plagued by financial stress.
That group is college students.
Stressing out over money is a widespread issue for this group, whether it's worrying about paying rent, student loans or thinking about the future, the issue is universal.
In fact, according to a study done by The Ohio State University in 2010, 71 percent of those who responded to their financial wellness survey reported feeling stressed about personal finances.
And with more than $1.71 trillion being owed in student debt by Americans, that statistic is not surprising.
Where do Marylander's rank on that list?
With the average borrower owing $42,700 in student loans.
To address this issue and focus on the importance of financial education, Maryland's colleges and universities along with the CASH Campaign of Maryland are launching a new center, the Maryland Center for Collegiate Financial Wellness. The center aims to fill that financial education gap that falls between early education years and adulthood.
"It's important to adjust the financial needs of college students because those needs are unique," explained Dr. Tisa L. Silver Canady, Director of the Maryland Center for Collegiate Financial Wellness. "College or career school can be an expensive endeavor and unfortunately many students in their families don't have the extra cash sitting around to pay for all of that out of pocket."
Which often leads them towards taking out loans in order to pay for higher education.
"For some people navigating student loan repayment can be extremely intimidating and sometimes difficult, so the Maryland Center for Collegiate Financial Wellness aims to give them resources to feel more comfortable in navigating those decisions around student loan repayment, and also locating any and every available resource at the federal level...state level and sometimes even the local level to help them repay those loans."
The benefits of getting this financial education is already seen through graduates like Meredith Webber, a University of Maryland Baltimore County graduate and former UMBC Women's Soccer player who's coach implemented this topic into their every day lives.
Head Coach Vanessa Mann enacted into their weekly routine what would be called "Future Fridays".
"We would have a meeting and they would propose something that you would actually need for real life that you wouldn't learn in the classroom," Webber explained.
Webber says they covered a number of different financial topics, from learning how to do your taxes to buying a home. The graduate says the thing she's taken most from this extra knowledge is how important it is to be aware of your finances post-college.
"When you're in college, you kind of have like a safety net around you of like support people and student athletes, especially whether they get the chance to have a scholarship or not, if you were given any sort of financial aid or scholarship, I feel like you kind of feel like you have a bit of like a cushion," she said. "And you kind of feel like you have this extra money that's not actually there."
She said that's one of her major takeaways, being aware of spending and thinking about the future.
A lot of the time, these things will come up, and you'll be prepared because of the basic knowledge you learned prior.
"Even if you don't know how to do it totally on your own and you don't have all the answers, you can at least put a little bit forward and be like, I learned a little bit about this," she said. "But I think that's the best part about this education program is that you aren't left in the dark...and then you can go from there."
Making sure these students aren't left on their own when it comes to these real world situations is one of the reasons Mann implemented it into their schedule.
"One of the things that we try to implement within our program...one of our three values is belief. And we believe that a belief is directly correlated to preparation," Mann explained. "So if we can put the preparation in place here, when our women go and face those moments, they're going to have the confidence to be able to go in at least with a sound basic understanding of what it is that they're getting themselves into."
Throughout the seminars, Mann and her staff not only supplied these women with this knowledge, but brought in individuals that they could see themselves in, to know that these goals, these financial events aren't that far off for them, even when it comes to things like home buying or planning for retirement.
"Instead of showing someone that's a lot older, [they were] able to show someone that had just graduated a year ago and so first off, the ladies could make the connection, like 'I could see myself in that'," she detailed.
The main premise of these sessions were how you can be fiscally responsible now and plan ahead of time so you're not stressed down the line about money.
And in terms of convincing students to focus on their financial education?
"I think the first thing that I want to be able to preface is I don't want to convince you. I want to just leave you with the facts. I was a student athlete from 2007 to 2010 and during that time, we went through a financial recession in 08 and we've gone through another recession in 2020," she said. "There are things that are now going to impact what I can and can't do in my life. You're now that generation that's coming through, that will be impacted by this. You need to have this sound understanding, cause there's no one in the world that is going to come out there and hold your hand through this stuff. You have to find the right people around you, surround yourself with the right people that are going to be able to elevate you, which at times is just doing things a little uncommon and that's okay."
To learn more about the Maryland Center for Collegiate Financial Wellness, click here.