FARMINGTONCaleb Grover, University of Maine at Farmington student from Norway, acknowledges that, “Money, for me, has always been a challenge.”

Like many students, Grover knew a college education was key to his future, but he was unsure about his finances and uncertain about the steps he needed to take to become more knowledgeable and self-sufficient.

That all changed last year, when, as a junior at UMF, he took a student job with the University’s Financial Literacy Peer Education Program.

Grover’s preparation as a peer educator in the program helped him understand how to manage his financial resources and how to help other students by providing them with informational programming regarding every aspect of personal finance, including student loan borrowing, default prevention and financial aid.

“As a business economics major, this program has helped me understand how to spend smarter and prepared me to share that with my peers,” said Grover. “That peer-to-peer interaction is essential to help students see what works for others and for them to feel at ease with the process.”

This year, Grover holds the lead intern position overseeing the UMF peer educator effort. He manages a team of seven trained students who have presented financial literacy information to more than 700 of their fellow Farmington college students and 100-plus high school students. They have reached out to students during new student Orientation; First-Year Seminars; Open House events and in a series of group sessions, events and one-on-one meetings.

Launched in 2013, the program and its creator, Ron Milliken—Director of Financial Aid at University of Maine Farmington—were recently honored by the Finance Authority of Maine. The FAME “Education at Work for Maine” Award recognized Milliken and his program for providing students with the kind of personal financial education that would equip them to successfully navigate financial decisions.

“Our peer educators have helped countless students have a better understanding of their student loans, basic budgeting, personal debt and the importance of saving,” said Milliken. “Seeing this program thrive means students are learning the skills and knowledge that are essential for them to make informed and effective financial decisions.”

In addition to their regular week-long training camp in August, UMF peer educators participated in this year’s Higher Education Financial Wellness Summit at Indiana University. The national symposium brought students from around the country to discuss financial wellness in the higher education world and engage in peer learning experiences.

“The biggest takeaway for students is knowing the program is a resource to help them with their financial questions,” said Sarah Hinman, program coordinator of the Peer to Peer Financial Literacy and Education program. “This program is a huge help to them during their college years and as they enter loan repayment after graduation. We find most students leave our office feeling a huge sense of relief.”

The program was relaunched in 2018 under Hinman’s leadership in an effort to expand it to all seven UMaine System campuses. Currently, there are financial literacy peer educators at the Farmington, Orono and Augusta campuses. Next year the program will expand to include campuses at Presque Isle, Machias, Fort Kent and Southern Maine.

Any middle or high schools interested in partnering with the program can contact Sarah Hinman at [email protected].

The program is funded, in large part, by a grant through the Maine Attorney General during Janet Mills’ term in office.

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