Financial Wellness program

Shafiq Khan is the program coordinator for Financial Wellness at UND, which offers counseling to students on finances, financial aid, personal spending plans and student loan repayment. Nick Nelson/ Dakota Student

Nick Nelson

Shafiq Khan is the program coordinator for Financial Wellness at UND, which offers counseling to students on finances, financial aid, personal spending plans and student loan repayment. Nick Nelson/ Dakota Student

Stephanie Hollman, Staff Writer

Khan guides students to decrease their debt

When it comes to money, credits, and loans, college students are known to have it rough. They resort to doing many things to save money, including eating ramen noodles daily and scouring the campus for events that offer free food. The struggle that comes with dealing with their finances puts a lot of stress on the student, especially because their academics should be the main thing on their mind, not how they’re going to pay for study.

Tackling the students’ financial loan debt will be one of, if it isn’t already, the biggest challenge that our country will face in the next several years. According to the US Department of Education, 44 million borrowers owe about $1.3 trillion — more than what is owed by the US credit card holders.

To help the UND student borrowers, the Financial Wellness Program (FWP) is providing services which are essential to student financial success. The FWP is located in unit 12 in the Memorial Union. The program aims to improve students’ financial literacy and guide them to make healthy decisions when it comes to managing their student loan debt. The FWP offers personal financial planning to UND students to have all of the tools and information they need to make smart, successful decisions while they are in school, and after graduation.

Shafiq Khan, the FWP Coordinator, believes that the basis of personal financial wellness during college is built on one’s financial knowledge and current information. Unfortunately, without this crucial information, students are blindly signing loan documents without knowing much about repayment and the consequences of interest.

“There’s really no proper way to learn about personal financing in high school,” Khan says. “Unfortunately, the same thing happens when you come to college, because nobody has formally given you a lesson in it. Students are often totally lost when it comes to understanding financial topics related to their student loan,” Khan points out. At UND, the FWP is the place where those learning gaps are filled.

With the help from peer educators through individual or group financial counseling sessions, students will be able to analyze their current financial state and come up with a spending plan that will alleviate the monetary burden that they face while attending college. The planning process includes everything from setting a reasonable and achievable goal to tracking expenses. In addition, the issues of personal budgeting, credit score, credit cards, paying for college, banking basics, saving and protecting your Identity are also covered during those sessions. 

Though most student loans don’t require any payments while in school, Khan advises that students be aware of how they spend their money while in school and save enough to be prepared for emergencies and post-grad life. Budgeting, when planned properly in accordance to a student’s income and necessary expenses, is the greatest tool that will allow students to regain control of their finances.  “Wants can wait,” he says, “Needs can be taken care of immediately.” This includes finding less expensive alternatives for one’s needs. For example, while a car is something that one may need, it would be much more reasonable to purchase a pre-owned vehicle instead of a new one.

Along with getting requests for their financial planning services, the FWP gets frequent inquiries about UND’s Student Discount Program, which offers a plethora of local deals just for students with a valid student ID. According to the program’s website, there are discounts for everything from restaurants to hair and beauty in Grand Forks. We would encourage students to visit the FWP website to navigate the discount page and to find local vendors that offer discounts to UND students. Forty percent of our website visitors go to the discount page, Khan mentions, but he would very much like this number to be increased.

It would be ideal for students to know exactly what they’re getting into when it comes to taking out a loan before starting college. It is still beneficial to learn about the basics of financial responsibility no matter how far along they are in their education. The program aims at building the awareness of the students, which will prompt them to plan responsible and successful financial future.

Appointments for personal financial planning, which includes help with anything from managing loans to providing information about credit scores, can be made through the FWP office at the Memorial Union or through their website. “It never hurts to ask,” Khan concludes. He stresses that the program remains active on social media and invites all UND students to follow the program on Facebook and Twitter for recent updates.

Stephanie Hollman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]