Contributed by Karen Serna, Student Money Management Office director

Austin Community College (ACC) has been awarded a scholarship from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) that will allow staff to increase their knowledge and confidence to better guide students in managing their money.

Recent surveys found that financial stress is up among community college students as a result of the ongoing pandemic. According to the data, many students experienced layoffs, furloughs, or reductions in work hours, and many also faced increased responsibilities to provide financial support for their households. Addressing the financial needs of our students is crucial as we support them to graduation. 

A group of 16 ACC employees representing the Student Advocacy Center, Student Money Management Office, and Financial Aid Office received the AFCPE scholarship valued at $14,489.

“Austin Community College is thrilled to receive this scholarship so as staff we can be better equipped to support our students’ financial needs as they work towards graduation,” says Karen Serna, Student Money Management Office director, who will lead the staff through the education and training requirements and received her Accredited Financial Counselor designation in 2019. “The pandemic has only exacerbated the financial challenges our students continue to face, and although most staff naturally have conversations with students about money, this training will help boost their skills and confidence so they can best be of service to our students.”  

Select staff will complete the Money Management Essentials professional development training over the next six months to improve their skills and confidence when talking to our students about money. These staff include: 

  • Amber Huffman, Student Advocate (Eastview)
  • Ar’Niqua Coleman, Student Advocate (Cypress Creek)
  • Chelsea Jones, Student Advocate (San Gabriel)
  • Erika Acala, Student Advocate (Northridge)
  • Katharine Garza, Student Advocate (South Austin)
  • McKayla McCarty, Coordinator, Work Study/Outreach
  • Michelle de la Garza, Student Advocate (Riverside)
  • Theresa Villegas-Shipman, Student Advocate (Hays)
  • Troy Barber, Student Advocate (Elgin) 

“This week alone I spoke to several students about their limited resources. If there’s any way we as advocates can help our students make the most of what they have, then the student and our college will benefit,” says Garza. “This training will help me guide students through a range of challenging financial situations.”  

Additional staff will complete the rigorous education requirements to qualify to take the exam to earn the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) designation. This designation requires the completion of online modules, live webinar sessions, and documented experience providing financial counseling to clients. The five future AFCs are: 

  • Alegra Harris, Coordinator, Special Support & Grants
  • Angelica Cancino de Sandoval, Director, Special Support & Grants
  • Ayeesha Green, Coordinator, Student Money Management Office
  • Belinda Pena, Manager, Financial Aid Outreach & Special Programs
  • Linda Eguiluz, Coordinator, Student Money Management Office 

“This certification will support me in combining my passion, my empathy for helping others, and my ability to break down ‘complicated’ money topics so that students can not only understand but have the confidence to execute on the fundamentals of taking control of their money,” says Green, who has worked in ACC’s Student Money Management Office since it was established in 2016.   

The group started meeting in January and has regular study and discussion sessions to support one another with the content and identify ways to integrate the topics into existing conversations with students. 

AFCPE’s mission is to ensure the highest level of knowledge, skill, and integrity of the personal finance profession by certifying, connecting, and supporting diverse and capable professionals who serve communities worldwide. The scholarship will provide valuable professional development training to provide staff with skills and knowledge to address a wide range of financial questions and issues students encounter during their academic journey at ACC.