They may know how to get A’s in philosophy or chemistry, but some college students don’t have a clue about managing their money.

That’s one reason the University of Minnesota has decided to offer free personal finance counseling to students starting this fall.

Early this year, the U began training its One Stop Student Services counselors — who normally help students with registration and financial aid problems — to help them work through their money troubles as well.

Julie Selander, the program director, said these “financial wellness appointments” will be geared specifically to the challenges of student life.

Such as: How to live on a budget, minimize debt and curb expenses on rent, food and textbooks.

“We’ve had these resources online,” Selander said. “Now we’re expanding that.” For the first time, students will have the option of face-to-face financial counseling, to “sit down and really talk through it.”

In May, Selander’s team decided to test the waters, to see if students were interested. They sent out e-mails to a random sample of 1,300. “Within that first hour, we had 10 people respond,” Selander said. “Which shocked me, because it was finals week.” It told her that even with all the other pressures of college, “this is on their minds. It’s weighing on them.”

So far, about half a dozen counselors have undergone 50 hours of online training to qualify as financial advisers. Selander hopes to train all 26 of One Stop’s counselors by next year.

She notes that some students are more financially savvy than others, especially if they get this kind of curriculum in high school. But not everyone does. “They’ve been taken care of, often, for a long time by parents, and they’ve not learned those skills for themselves.”

The counselors can help them scrutinize their spending habits and change course. “We’re not going to handhold every step of the way,” she said. The goal is to “help students help themselves.”

 

maura.lerner@startribune.com