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Saturday, September 23, 2023

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The staff of the Cal Coast Student Financial Center posed in the remodeled lobby. See footnote for identifications. (Photo: Erik Good) The staff of the Cal Coast Student Financial Center posed in the remodeled lobby. See footnote for identifications. (Photo: Erik Good)

Cal Coast Partnership Offers Students an Education in Financial Fundamentals

A $3 million contribution to the SDSU financial center supports a major expansion of its counseling and programming.
By Jeff Ristine

Whether it’s the folly of making only minimum monthly credit card payments or knowing what factors drive auto loan interest rates, the art of managing one’s money is uncharted territory for many college students today.

With this in mind, Cal Coast Credit Union has pledged $3 million toward the San Diego State University Student Financial Center to offer students a useful set of financial literacy and wellness skills, and allow for a makeover and expansion of the center itself.

The Cal Coast Credit Union Student Financial Center, as it is now known, will become a one-stop shop for students on matters of financial aid, bill paying, and their personal budgeting at a time of growing demand for help.

Cal Coast has long supported “financial wellness, financial education, (and) financial literacy starting at a very young age,” said President and CEO Todd Lane (‘86). “It makes them better members in the future (and) better stewards of their finances who are good with their money. Building  sound habits so they don’t get in trouble with finances early on.”

The center, on the third floor of the Student Services West building, was established in December 2020 and houses staff from both SDSU’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, and Student Account Services.

Associate Vice President for Student Financial Resources Rose Pasenelli said Cal Coast’s contribution is helping to refresh the center’s lobby, where students come to privately meet with financial aid, scholarship and billing specialists. Cal Coast also established a new office in the center to meet with students.

Phase II of the project  is a renovation of and expansion into space formerly occupied by the SDSU Card office as a financial literacy center, Pasenelli said, where the staff will work and programming will be offered. (Assistance via phone and in a virtual platform also will continue.)

For students, Lane said financial literacy encompasses issues as basic as annual percentage rate and as far-reaching as the need to “understand the impact that their actions have not just today but on their future.”

Need to borrow money for a car to get to a first job out of college? The interest rate is going to be linked directly to multiple factors in assessing someone’s credit risk. Financing a degree with a student loan? Lane said it’s important to know that interest accrues during the deferment period, and how the repayment schedule is going to affect discretionary income after graduation.

Cal Coast representatives offer one-on-one financial counseling at the center, Lane said. At full build-out, the offerings will expand into other programming and online and app-based tools, “whatever it takes to instill financial wellness in our young people” and help them live within their means — including writing a personalized financial plan for those who need one.

The donation also will support some expenses of the SDSU Economic Crisis Response Team, which will refer students directly to Cal Coast representatives.

Passenelli said the university has tried to offer financial literacy assistance in the past but found it difficult for staff, sometimes working after hours, to keep up with all students’ needs. Some 70% of SDSU students receive financial aid, and requests for help at the  center have doubled over the past year.

Many students need help with simple budgeting, she said, and making thousands of dollars delivered as a lump sum for financial aid last over a five-month period. In San Diego, she said, there’s the additional complication of rents that are far “out of control.”

“Even the ones who do budget, It’s just hard for them to make ends meet,” Passenelli said. “Making the right choices is something we need to teach our students from the beginning.”

The newly renamed center extends a partnership between SDSU and the credit union that goes back more than 10 years, including naming rights for the Cal Coast Open Air Theatre that now extend through the year 2032, sponsorship of the Aztecs men’s basketball team, and an on-campus branch in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. Its Cal Coast Cares Foundation, which provides teacher grants and scholarships for college-bound high school seniors, includes a special program for former foster youth.

“This goes back to our roots,” Lane said, noting that the credit union was created nearly 100 years ago to serve teachers in the San Diego Unified School District. It now operates throughout San Diego and Riverside counties.

A grand opening of the expanded center is tentatively planned for August.

(Pictured in photograph above, from left: Paige Milewski, Atia Mccracken, Sierra Smith, Ahmed Lakrab, Brandon Diaz, Shira Scott, Chip Pierce, Laura Heimbach, Osbaldo Perez, Elim Blanco, Josephine Mojica, Bryan Charbonneau, Pamela Lopez.)