College Offers New Financial Education Tools

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 13:00

For students and alumnae resolving to be better money managers in 2013, the College has a New Year’s gift that may help.

Beginning in mid-January, current students and all alumnae will have access to SALT, a suite of online financial tools designed to help users find jobs and internships, manage their loans, and develop sound spending habits. Offered by the nonprofit American Student Assistance, the service is customizable, interactive, and— perhaps best of all— free for users.

“It’s a great way to start off the new year,” said Gail Holt, senior associate director of Student Financial Services. “What better way to do it than by taking control of your financial health?”

SALT is a members-only program that aims to meet the financial needs of aspiring, current, and former college students. Its offerings include financial literacy courses, discounts on select products and services, personal loan counselors, and access to job and internship search tools.

Mount Holyoke’s partnership with SALT came after administrators sought ways to build upon the College’s already existing financial education offerings. In the past, Student Financial Services offered several workshops a semester for students to give them the skills they’d need to establish a healthy financial outlook.

But College officials still saw a need among students for a more personalized approach to financial literacy. Even when students grasped general concepts about managing loans, Holt said, they often avoided engaging with the realities of their financial situations.

“It’s easy for students to not pay attention or understand fully the terms of loans,” she added. “So when they fall behind, it becomes increasingly harder for them to get back on track. There’s a tendency to bury your head in the sand, hoping it will just go away. It’s heartbreaking to see, and the solution is education.”

What made the SALT program so distinctive to College officials was both its comprehensiveness and its appeal to students. Officials are hoping SALT’s interactive tutorials, mobile phone apps, and customer outreach will succeed in opening up a dialogue about student debt and how to manage it.

“So if we can do this in a fun way, in a way that’s not overwhelming and meets students where they are, that’s the trick,” Holt added. “It is better for students to have that information before they graduate, rather than learn it on the fly after they graduate.”

In the hours prior to the public launch of SALT to the Mount Holyoke community, College officials invited some alumnae and students to use the service. So far, the preliminary feedback has been positive.

"As I realize I will need money to make my dreams happen and to simply enjoy life, I'll need advice and good resources to keep up with myself," said Kirbi Kidd '10. "I'm proud to be an alum of a college that truly thinks of its students, current and former!"    

Mount Holyoke students and alumnae should sign up at http://www.saltmoney.org