McDaniel College recently named Westminster resident Julie Weaver as the school’s financial wellness coordinator, a position that has been created to help students navigate paying for college, managing loan debt and other college-related expenses.
Weaver, a Westminster native, graduated from Westminster High School and said with the help of scholarships, she graduated from the University of Maryland.
Before coming to work at McDaniel in 2015 as a financial aid counselor, Weaver spent more than 15 years in finance with Deutsche Bank Securities, formerly Alex. Brown & Sons, and helped create a Professional Women’s Leadership Program at Towson University. She also served as PTA president at Mechanicsville Elementary School when her daughters were in school there, she said.
In her spare time, Weaver said she and her family enjoy hiking with their dog around Maryland state parks and the Liberty Reservoir, and are “avid” Harry Potter fans. Weaver said she and her family are members of LifePoint Church in Reisterstown.
The Times caught up with Weaver to talk about her new role at McDaniel.
Q: What is the position you recently began? What are your job duties?
A: I am the financial wellness coordinator at McDaniel College and the goal of this new position is to help alleviate financial stress for McDaniel students. It was created to help students navigate the complexities of paying for college all four years, manage loan debt and other college-related expenses and learn how to budget and plan for the future. I provide counseling and advising to students throughout their undergraduate college experience in addition to organizing workshops and programming, particularly around the topic of financial literacy. We want students to make informed choices since financial decisions that they make as college students will have a significant impact on their financial future.
Q: How do you help students with college-related finances?
A: Most of my work currently is focused on helping students entering McDaniel as freshmen understand the financial aid process and their financial aid awards, as well as map out a financial plan for their four years. I also work closely with students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are first-generation, with navigating all of the steps to take to ensure that they can find the funding to pursue their educational pursuits. Additionally, I proactively help students with finding outside scholarships and other funding sources to help reduce their reliance on loans.
I am looking forward to expanding our financial literacy programming to address the needs of all of our students and young alumni so that they can be successful adults. Topics I look forward to covering would include not only financially planning and navigating student loan repayment, but life skills like budgeting, understanding insurance, renting your first apartment, car buying, and employee benefit maximization.
Q: What should all students know about loans, the FASFA and other forms of financial aid?
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A: First, it is important that students file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, each year in order to be considered for Maryland and federal aid, as well as institutional need-based financial grants and scholarships. Students should file the FAFSA early, so that they don’t miss out on available funding opportunities and, especially, by March 1, which is the deadline to complete the FAFSA in order to receive state aid in Maryland. The sooner a student files, the better as some aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
While I’m not a fan of the excessive use of student loans, some reasonable student loans can be a necessary investment in a student’s education. Some students can reduce their reliance on loans by working and careful planning. But, for those who have exhausted all other aid options, they should know that student loan debt is referred to as “good debt” because the student who is borrowing is making an investment in themselves that will hopefully pay dividends for the next 40 to 60 years, long after the debt is repaid. Most people will borrow thousands of dollars to purchase a vehicle to transport them to their job for 10 years or less. In my opinion, limited responsible borrowing of federal student loans, if the student has no other option, to enhance a person’s long-term career opportunities and earnings is not unreasonable.
I do advise students to think strategically about their future earnings potential when borrowing to invest in their education, particularly for students pursuing passion careers, like social work, for example, where their job satisfaction rate will be high, but their earnings during the debt repayment term could be relatively low.
Q: Why did you want to be in this role? What skills do you think you bring to the position?
A: I am excited to serve in this position because I am passionate about helping students succeed. It’s rewarding to see these students succeed and be part of their journey. I bring not only the compassion that comes from having struggled to put myself through college, but also years of financial experience and a knowledge of the financial aid system.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: Many families think that a private education at a small, high touch, liberal arts institution, like McDaniel, is out of reach, when, in reality, we can be an affordable option because of our generous financial aid awards. More than 90 percent of McDaniel students receive some type of financial assistance, and the college invests over $40 million annually in grants and scholarships. For instance, high school seniors might not be aware that McDaniel offers a guaranteed Visit Incentive Grant worth $1,000 per year to prospective students just for visiting and touring our beautiful campus.