Texas Tech Students Guide Peers through Financial Uncertainty

Red to Black offers preparation for fiscal well being during college years and beyond.

College can be a rewarding investment, but paying for it should not amount to indentured servitude. Graduates of Texas Tech University have relatively low amounts of student loan debt, according to a recent survey released by U.S. News & World Report.

Dottie Durband, associate professor in the Department of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech, is director of Red to Black®, a program that offers financial counseling services to help students manage their expenses before debt has an opportunity to become overwhelming.

“While this ranking is notable for the university and our students, it is absolutely necessary that we continue to educate students and their families about borrowing and managing student debt,” Durband said. “Many families do not talk openly about finances, yet when the student comes to school, they are often presented with big life decisions that could affect them for years to come.”

One method of addressing personal finances and financial stress among students of higher education is through university based financial education programs. And while Durband has a background in financial counseling and education, she said it became clear early on that she should not be the one to deliver these services. Instead, she supervises a select team of student financial coaches with specialized training.

“Many students and graduates believe financial planning is only for individuals with significant wealth,” Durband said, “Actually it can begin with something like coordinating your income and expenses by developing a spending plan.”

In Red to Black, students help other students. “It is the same model used by resident assistants, or in peer mentoring or tutoring.”

“Debt management is something I am familiar with,” said Red to Black graduate assistant Sasha Whitley. “I enjoy talking with people about this subject and perhaps making a difference.”

Red to Black offers confidential and individual financial coaching through remedial to preventive education, seminars and presentations.

“We reach out to students during Freshman Orientation, and sometimes during events in the Free Speech Area,” said Red to Black coach David Wilder. “Students do not typically request our services though, until later in their college career.”

“Sometimes they say they’ve had too much fun at spring break or they need gas money, and this prompts their request for an appointment,” Durband said. “Typically though, we see an increase during finals and after school is out.”

Coaches may help graduates compare internship and job offers, or do cost-of-living comparisons. And once they join the workforce, Durband, Whitley and Wilder encourage students to prioritize and prepare a spending plan.

“When I started it, there were no other programs known in Texas, but today, we are seen as a premier program. And that’s what prompted a book,” Durband said. “Many faculty, staff and students contacted me to request a campus visit or phone interview, asking what worked and what didn’t work.”

“Student Financial Literacy: Campus-Based Program Development” was co-edited by a Texas Tech alumna and former Assistant Director of Red to Black, Dr. Sonya Britt. Durband said the project was a labor of love.

“We asked former Red to Black coaches to share the knowledge and skills they have developed with others,” Durband said. “Many are the ones who helped build the first website, design the brochures, and gave presentations. They are now the experts.”

Published in April 2012, the book presents key components of financial education programs designed to address the growing concerns associated with high levels of debt and low levels of financial literacy.

“I felt I had a responsibility to bring together a group of experts to share resources to help others develop or enhance a program for students.”

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CONTACT: Dottie Durband, associate professor, Department of Personal Financial Planning, College of Human Sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-5050 or dottie.durband@ttu.edu.