March 06, 2018
The following article is from Minnesota Business.
Eighty-six percent of college undergraduates own smartphones. But even with so much information at their fingertips, today's college students remain novices when it comes to their finances. More than half of students surveyed in a recent LendEdu study reported having no personal finance education in high school. Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that more than 4.5 million Americans are in default on more than $75 billion in student loans.
Minneapolis-based nonprofit ECMC Group and its family of companies are working to change that fact by helping students prepare for college by empowering them to make informed choices about their fields of study, as well as the financial responsibility that may accompany those choices.
"We understand the critical role getting students to and through college plays in their future success and financial stability," said Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of ECMC Group. "Everything we do is focused on helping students succeed." ECMC Group works with students at every step of their higher education journey. In addition to providing financial education tools and services, the organization offers nonprofit career education and funds programs that affect educational outcomes — especially among underserved populations.
Providing the Right Tools
The cost of college has increased more than 150% in the last 20 years, making financial education a vital element in preparing for college.
ECMC — an affiliate of ECMC Group — offers a number of free resources on ecmc.org for students and families to help them prepare for their education beyond high school. Resources include the Opportunities Book — a free step-by-step workbook that provides the tools families need to make informed decisions about choosing the right school, completing a college application and navigating the financial aid process.
The organization also operates college access centers — brick-and-mortar locations across the country — that provide free college planning resources to families and students of all ages. From helping students complete college applications and financial aid forms to finding scholarships, The College Place (TCP) centers provide a wealth of support to students as they plan their higher-education journey.
Recently, ECMC opened its first TCP center in Minneapolis on the campus of Minneapolis Community and Technical College. The center serves students and families in the metro area and beyond.
To further educate students, ECMC created an interactive financial literacy game, FAB Life, which is designed to teach students about personal financing using real-life scenarios. ECMC also offers resources for educators, including a free educator curricula guide to help low-income and first-generation students realize their dreams of postsecondary education.
Mentoring Future Leaders
As part of its commitment to students as well as its focus on community outreach, ECMC Group partners with a variety of organizations to offer time and resources as well as opportunities for employees across the country to volunteer in their local communities. In Minnesota, the organization supports a variety of organizations, including Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Junior Achievement and BestPrep's ementoring program, where employees mentor high school students in ninth through twelfth grade via email.
"One of the great things about working with BestPrep is that we get to work one-on-one with students and we have an opportunity to make a direct impact on the college and career decisions they may make," said Sabrina Berg, senior community relations specialist with ECMC Group. "We have the opportunity to inspire them to go to college and join the professional world. Our employees have a strong passion for education and this partnership allows us to make an even greater impact on the lives of local students."
ECMC Group is proud of its robust volunteer and giving program. In 2017, the organization donated $1.6 million around the country, nearly $450,000 in Minnesota alone. In addition, 45% of employees in Minnesota participated in the volunteer program.
In the end, says Wheaton, ECMC Group's efforts all come back to the organization's mission to help students succeed.
"It is important for us to help students, to encourage them to continue their education and to help them understand that college can be possible for them with the right resources and support."