New campus program ready to set students on path to financial success

Organizers of New Kensington Financial Literacy Program look forward to upcoming year
Nittany lion statue in foreground with campus buildings in background

The Nittany Lion Shrine at Penn State New Kensington as the sun begins to set.

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Penn State is committed to delivering a quality, accessible education to every student within the University’s 20 campuses. Attending college is a major decision, and the recently formed partnership between Penn State’s Sokolov-Miller Family Financial Literacy and Life Skills Center and Penn State New Kensington aims to make sure students are given the tools and skills needed to understand and manage debt.

“I think students get loans and they think they have all this up-front money now,” explained Ashley Traini, financial aid coordinator at the New Kensington campus. “They spend it, and they are not realizing that in four years, they have to pay it back. It all starts at the beginning and realizing your expenses earlier and what you can and can’t do.”

With one Penn State’s strategic plan foundations of enabling access to education at the forefront, and with the help of the Sokolov-Miller Center, Penn State New Kensington began planning its Financial Literacy Program last fall. Traini, Penn State class of 2005, worked with another Penn State alumna, Erin Weber, on the new endeavor. Weber, president of the Penn State New Kensington Advisory Board and financial adviser at Hefren-Tillotson Inc., shared Traini’s determination for figuring out how to teach financial literacy and other life skills to students. Both look forward to the program officially starting this upcoming fall semester.

“Anywhere where you can get financial literacy information helps families figure out how to manage their money to make college work,” said Traini, who spent all four years of her Penn State education at the campus and paid off her student loans within five years after graduation.

“I was able to manage my expenses with having a mortgage, having loan debt, driving a car, so being able to manage money is very, very important,” she continued.

With planning for the new program underway, Traini also felt it was important to have a student perspective during preparations and throughout the academic year. Mack Adams, who will be entering his second year at the New Kensington campus, joined Traini as the program’s student ambassador. Adams has been working on planning events for the upcoming academic year and designing fliers so students will be informed and learn about financial literacy in new and fun ways.

“Having the knowledge of credit card debt, loan management and money management will prepare them for life outside of college,” Traini said. “Having Mack involved with that can help tap into the students to get them to understand why that’s important.”

In addition to the on-campus program, students will be able to utilize services provided by the Sokolov-Miller Center, such as free monthly webinars and money counseling.

Remembering her own Penn State experience as a student has also driven Traini to provide the additional programming.

“Being able to help the students the way I was helped and being able to guide them along so that they have an experience here like I had is very important,” said Traini.

Editor's note: Brian Magnus, a senior journalism major and embedded intern at the New Kensington campus from the Penn State Office of Planning and Assessment, contributed to this article.