Red to Black organization moves to online services during pandemic to offer Texas Tech students financial guidance and resources
Red to Black® Peer Financial Coaching is a nationally recognized model program on the Texas Tech campus staffed by students pursuing degrees in Personal Financial Planning (PFP). The student group provides financial education and awareness to students through individual coaching sessions, presentations, outreach booths, and resource referrals. Usually, these services are offered face-to-face on campus. With recent health concerns and closures, Red to Black transitioned to virtual financial coaching.
Program Director, Tiffany Murray, MS, AFC®, said that offering online sessions was a move they had previously considered, but now was unavoidable.
"With this situation, we saw an opportunity to ensure that we could continue to offer services to the TTU community, and the goal was to move quickly," Tiffany said. "We worked extremely hard to ensure that things on the backend were updated for this new opportunity."
The appointment scheduling system got quite an update, while the group created video tutorials for Red to Black members on how to conduct the new virtual sessions. The new sessions looked much different than the traditional in-person format. Members quickly learned to present information and address client needs online.
"During some of our sessions, we may ask students to fill out a spending plan," Tiffany explained. "Instead of them filling it out by hand, they are now able to do it electronically via Microsoft Excel. That has been the biggest difference, in my opinion, how we go about receiving that information."
Client Service Team Lead, Andrea Corkovic, says the team did a great job adjusting to the situation.
"We just did what we knew best, helping our peers and being there for them through this stressful financial time," she said. "Luckily, we have pretty amazing students here at Texas Tech that worked with me through these technical difficulties and were encouraging throughout the whole process. I also noticed that by having our clients be in places they feel most comfortable and allowing them to be just a click away made the experience so much more effective and worthwhile."
One challenge Andrea noted to be especially difficult was the lack of non-verbal cues in the new virtual format.
"I use non-verbal cues to direct me to different parts of conversations and to help my client fully understand what is being presented to them. When looking through a small computer screen, it can be easy to miss the cues that I would have picked up on if the session was in person."
Regardless of the learning curve and challenges brought on by technology, Red to Black was able to still reach many students in need of financial coaching during a difficult time.
"After my sessions, I felt as though they helped me more than I helped them through this difficult situation by providing me the ability to socialize with others and giving me a connection to campus," Andrea said.
Lead Financial Coach and PFP doctoral student, Kaplan Sanders, said the transition to virtual services was very natural.
"We were working on developing a way to hold sessions virtually—to be more accessible to students who are learning from a distance or have commitments that make it difficult to come to campus," he said. "I love seeing students leave a session with tools to make life better. I love when they understand they're not alone in the financial struggles they're facing, and when they start putting their money where they want it."