I recently spoke on the campus of Sam Houston State University and during my time there I noticed something about the students that I came in contact with throughout the day. My day started with a breakfast that students attended and for about thirty minutes they were able to ask questions. Each question they asked showed that they really wanted answers that would guide them in the right direction financially. They didn't ask questions just to ask questions. They were asking personal questions so that they would receive personal answers from me. There were so many questions that we had to stop because the breakfast was over.
My next event in the day was my keynote and that was open to the entire campus. Students, staff, and faculty filled the auditorium. Once the keynote was finished it was time for questions and answers once again and the students didn't hesitate to put their hands in the air. They sat on the edge of their chairs and listened for the answers that they needed. Question after question until time was up. At this point you are probably thinking what makes these students so different? Here is why they are different.
That day those students showed me and everyone around them that they are determined to be different than those that came before them. They are going to be different than their parents, grandparents, even those who work at the institution. I could tell that they understood that no longer can they depend on a pension or for a company to guarantee them forty years of employment. They have come to the conclusion that they need to get their finances together today so that they can move on with life! They understand that their financial situation is unique.
2008 showed them that the world can fall apart at any time and they have to be ready. Most of these students were in elementary and middle school when the economy went off a cliff. They are the children of the adults who lost their jobs. They are the children who may have seen an eviction notice on the door. Those children are now adults with those painful thoughts in the back of their minds and they are determined to build a more secure future. They are determined to be DIFFERENT! They are not going to college just to get a job, but they are going so that they can be in position to change the world they live in.
They don't want the credit cards that will put them in more debt, because they are already in enough debt as it is. They will get someone to work their shift because they want to attend a keynote as a young lady did because of what she heard at the breakfast. They want to be entrepreneurs and change agents. DIFFERENT!
The students were not the only ones that were different, but also the staff, faculty, and administration was different. Sam Houston State University is one of the few institutions with a Student Money Management Center. The center is there to help students with their finances throughout the year. Everyone in the center is passionate about the financial success of the students. They want to see them succeed in life. Student Money Management Centers don't just pop up at an institution. There has to be buy in from the top and Sam Houston showed that they have the support of decision makers. At so many institutions that I speak at I don't see people with VP or Director in their title, but at Sam Houston they are supporting the Student Money Management Center with their most important asset. Their time.
Students want to know that you care. If they think you don't care they are not going to come to your event. They are not going to care that you say a budget will help them get their money in order. They will keep spending their money eating out and going to concerts. They will keep spending their refund checks because all they think is that you are in it for yourself and your institution. Sam Houston State and their Student Money Management Center chose to be DIFFERENT. They broke through that skepticism and built a trust among their students. That trust will lead to a higher graduation rate and alumni who will be in position to live their dreams financially and change the world! I can't wait to see it!