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The Powerful Journey of Financial Literacy 

picture of OanaFinancial literacy is a very personal journey for Oana Zayic, financial aid officer at MCTC. When she began working in this position more than 12 years ago, she knew nothing about student loans, repayment or smart borrowing. 

Armed with personal knowledge about the impact of familial debt, Zayic has made it her mission to raise awareness among others about what it means to have the long-term burden of a student loan. She also informs others about alternative options such as grants and scholarships that provide students more control of their financial futures. 

“I never had anyone to coach me through the financial aspect of getting an education,” said Zayic, who wants to be that person for students at MCTC. “I’m always looking for new information and resources to help students make their paths easier. I encourage students to only borrow what they need and look at every financial option before they make a commitment.” 

Zayic meets with new and continuing students who have in-depth questions about financial aid, student loan repayment and special circumstances that effect their finances. She also collaborates with others across the campus to promote financial literacy and helps former MCTC students who are behind with their student loan payments.

Equity and inclusion on campus weaves into Zayic’s work

“At the core of my work on financial literacy is the idea of honoring my students’ experiences, backgrounds, personal stories when delivering information pertaining to student loans, debt management or budgeting,” Zayic expounds. 

“Money is a very sensitive topic in general. That is why knowing my audience, its needs and stories are essential when hosting a presentation on student loan debt, when organizing a FAFSA help session, when having meaningful one on one conversations. Last year I had the wonderful opportunity of partnering with the AME (African American Education Empowerment Program) Center on campus in hosting financial literacy nights for student parents.”
 
Zayic continues, “It was an amazing experience and marked the beginning of my personal and professional journey into equity and inclusion work on campus. I needed to read about what it means to be someone other than myself so that I can make room for compassion and gratitude in my interactions with students. 

"It is important for me how I show up in the spaces I create and that are created for me. As an immigrant I have only that perspective on money and finances to share with my students. The work I do on equity and inclusion actually opened my eyes to other experiences and other stories.”

Encouraging financial literacy on and off campus

MCTC, one of the most affordable Colleges in Minnesota, embraces financial literacy across its entire campus. Last summer, the President’s Council approved the formation of a Financial Literacy Committee and elected Zayic to lead it. The committee is comprised of individuals from various departments who are passionate about fiscal responsibility.

Zayic has taken her work beyond MCTC’s campus as a member of the Minnesota Association of Financial Aid Administrators (MAFAA). Her work as co-chair of the Early Awareness and Outreach Committee recently received the MAFAA Executive Council Award for ingenuity, willingness to pursue new ideas and the enthusiastic pursuit of excellence.

“Our committee organized financial aid events at high schools across Minnesota, prepared and presented informational sessions about financial aid, led a FAFSA help session at National College Fair in Minneapolis in 2016 to promote financial aid and explain college affordability and access to education,” said Zayic, who expressed gratitude for support from the College, her manager and colleagues.

“I meet with students across a range of settings on a daily basis to help them navigate the intricate road of financial aid,” she said. “I see the power of knowledge in the smart financial decisions of our students who, like me, are on their own journey.”

Published July 2017

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