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Treasurer Stresses Need for Financial Literacy

WINTERVILLE—North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell held a meeting at Pitt Community College this week to stress the need for financial literacy among college students.

The treasurer’s visit came as part of a follow-up to the Student Debt Tour she conducted in 2009. In the two years since that tour, the nation’s student debt crisis has grown worse, with outstanding student loans nearing the $1 trillion-mark.

During Monday’s stop at PCC, Cowell said that while it is important to receive a college education, it is also essential that students be able to pay for their schooling after graduation.

While meeting with a group of students and staff from PCC and Edgecombe Community College in the Goess Student Center this week, Cowell listened as students discussed the difficulties they have encountered with paying for school. And though many described frustrations with financial aid regulations, others talked about how researching their funding options for school had really paid off.

Cowell took an active role throughout the discussion, asking the students a variety of questions to learn more about what they knew prior to borrowing money for school and how they had received that information. After hearing the students’ responses, she said, “It sounds like information gaps may still be out there.”

Earlier this year, North Carolina took a step toward filling those gaps when the N.C. Treasury Department partnered with the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) and the N.C. State Education Assistance Authority (NCSEAA) to launch the Advanced Money Management for Community College Students web-based tool in August.

During Monday’s meeting, Steven Brooks, NCSEAA executive director, gave an overview of the program on CFNC’s website (www.cfnc.org), saying it is basically a series of courses that combine to give students a clear picture of the ramifications involved with educational loans. As an example, he said the program encourages students to consider how much money they can expect from future professions when thinking about how much to borrow for school.

Cowell, who is a member of the N.C. Community Colleges governing board, said she planned to take the information she learned during her PCC visit back to her fellow board members “so they can all learn as well.”

According to a press release from the N.C. Treasurer’s Office, the next phase of the Advanced Money Management for Community College Students project is to build partnerships in communities that can provide individual coaching for students who may need additional support beyond the online course.