For Shaderica Lewis, a freshman studying electrical engineering, a curious click on the Transit financial wellness program while skimming the USC online safety and wellness courses last August paid off — quite literally.
“I knew that there were different types of loans, but I didn’t know you could push paying it back, or that you could not even have to pay it back at all,” she said. “Like if you joined the military, you don’t have to pay as much back.”
Transit was brought to USC through a new partnership between the USC Office for Wellness and Health Promotion and the USC Credit Union with Everfi, the same platform through which USC students access AlcoholEdu. Launched officially last semester, the two-part online educational course teaches students about student loans, credit, paying off debt and financial decision-making. It’s part of a growing effort to support students against the student debt crisis by providing support for financial wellness, the OWHP website said.
“We understand the stress that can come from financial concerns or feeling uncertain or unfamiliar with finances and how that can lead to stress and anxiety for students,” said Amanda Vanni, a health promotion specialist in the OWHP.
She emphasized how the partnership between the OWHP and the Credit Union is the perfect marriage for a program like Transit to help students make sense not only of student loans and debt, but also their day-to-day budgets.
“We have to think of finances as more than just loans and financial aid,” Vanni said. “On a day-to-day basis, you’re having to make decisions, you know, are you going to go to Starbucks or not? Is that in your budget? Can you afford to buy X, Y and Z? Students coming into college might not have had to work with budgeting before.”
Everfi offers a multitude of different online wellness educational courses for K-12, undergraduate and graduate students. Transit was specifically created to help students whose financial concerns jeopardize their ability to graduate.
According to an information sheet linked on the Everfi Transit page, 75 percent of college students have credit card debt and accumulate an average debt of $25,000 over six years in school. An overwhelming majority of students are worried about debt, and as funding declines, universities are looking for ways to support students when financial worries are on the rise.
“The first semester [was] pretty successful,” said Eurie Im, a training manager for the USC Credit Union, on Transit’s first semester trial at USC. “We had 5,706 students complete it, and that was only incoming freshmen and transfers, so we hope to increase the participation rate with all other students. Our goal is to help students manage their student loan debt, to budget better, to learn about credit cards and to be successful in their financial lives.”
The USC Credit Union currently serves about 8,000 students, and according to their chief marketing officer, Tere Denison, ensures financial wellness for students is one of their major goals, and Transit is one of the programs that helps them achieve it.
“The students are the beginning, the middle and the end for us,” Denison said. “[They] are the foundation for a lot of what we do and what we aim to do.”