Posted 12:42 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020
Campus financial helper finding success assisting students
Amanda Gasper remembers the freedom of college. Part of that liberty was financial freedom. Coming from a low-income family — something she didn’t realize until getting a driver’s license and visiting friends — Gasper enjoyed the freedom of buying things, often with credit cards.
“For the first time I felt like I could have what others had and afford to dress — name brand and all — the way I wanted,” she says. “I was living way out of my financial boundaries and was living a life that was not my own.”
Going through that experience and surviving it, Gasper, a senior student services coordinator in the UW-La Crosse Financial Aid Office, knows she has a lot to offer students on collegiate financial freedoms.
“I can draw from my own experiences to help them,” explains Gasper, who draws on her Christianity in her approach. “I had to hit some hard lows to figure some of that out, especially how materialism is oversold to all of us in our society. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to help others build healthy financial habits and find value in the little things, the meaningful things in life.”
And Gasper is finding success — so much that she’s being recognized nationally for her work with helping college students with financial planning.
Gasper has received the 2020 CashCourse Financial Educator of the Year Award, which honors an educator going above and beyond to promote financial literacy on their campus. The person demonstrates creativity and passion in the collegiate financial education field.
Currently serving as the coordinator of UWL’s It Make$ Cents Money Management Center, Gasper manages financial peer mentors who are central to the center's mission. The center’s peer mentors do all the marketing, outreach and consultations to knock down the stigma of money and financial literacy education.
“I feel our program is very effective because of their leadership and genuine approach,” explains Gasper. “It hits home to other students to witness their peers talking about money with knowledge and making good decisions. Hearing that from someone your own age is so important.”
Gasper also attributes success to campus partnerships, such as those with the Office of Multicultural Student Services. She has even worked with other schools to coach them in creating financial education programming.
With COVID-19, Gasper says It Make$ Cents programming will move online, but the Money Management Center and the Scholarship Resource Center will be open for face-to-face consultations. She expects new types of financial issues to arise. Many students have lost part-time and full-time work with COVID-19 shutdowns since March. Many internships went unfulfilled, too. With the campus limiting student hiring due to space and distancing, more students will be seeking off-campus jobs, she says.
CashCourse is a free, online noncommercial financial literacy resource for colleges and universities created by the nonprofit National Endowment for Financial Education. The program provides customizable, interactive personal finance tools used at more than 1,000 colleges and universities nationwide.
Gasper received $1,000 for the recognition. She used a large portion of that to fund a student’s Christian mission trip. The remaining funds will go toward sending congratulatory notes and small gifts to thank It Make$ Cents peer advisors.
UWL’s It Make$ Cents program has won numerous state financial literacy awards, along with spurring other financial success. A recent study by LendEDU, a website specializing in student loan information, found UWL ranks No. 153 nationally and No. 2 statewide for minimizing student debt. And, UWL students ranked No. 13 among four-year public institutions nationwide with the highest five-year repayment rates for Pell Grant recipients in an October 2018 study.