NIU offers resources during Money Smart Week

By Guadalupe Lopez

According to, the average college student attending a public university in Illinois in 2011 accumulated an average of $26,470 in debt.

To help students, NIU’s Financial Literacy Collaborative and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago are coming together to present the Money Smart Program to the DeKalb, Chicago and surrounding areas. The Money Smart Program includes free classes and workshops to assist anyone in search of managing their personal finances. This weeklong program will take place Monday through Saturday.

“During Money Smart Week there are hundreds of events taking place throughout the Chicago Fed region,” said Randi Napientek, assistant director of the Office of Student Academic Success . ”NIU’s Financial Literacy Collaborative has partnered to bring 16 events to the DeKalb, Sycamore, Rockford, Geneva and Naperville communities. There are a variety of topics being covered including identity theft, tax changes, credit, eating healthy on a budget, the job transition, FAFSA, preparing for college, general budgeting and even a Free Shred Day that will allow anyone to drop off old documents to be shredded, which can be especially helpful after tax season.”

The Be Smart About Identity Theft presentation will take place at NIU’s Holmes Student Center Monday through Friday at different times. During this event Castle Bank experts will discuss the importance of identity theft awareness. Times for the events can be found at

On Wednesday, Financial Cents, Health Enhancement and Campus Recreation will conduct Eating Healthy on a Budget. During this event, students and faculty will learn how to eat healthy without over-spending.

Lori Berkes-Nelson, president and executive director of the Econ Illinois program within the Financial Literacy Collaborative, said skills like these are always valuable.

“Learning to be smart with money is a lifelong process,” Berkes-Nelson said. “I want to help students be more focused on applying these concepts to real life.”

On Thursday, NIU’s Financial Cents will host Budgeting…Why It Is Not as Bad as You Think from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Financial Cents will share tips on saving and managing money.

Colette Tracy, operations manager for Junior Achievement’s western division, hopes people who are not students will also attend this week’s events.

“People of all ages need to make better decisions with their money,” Tracy said.

On Friday, the NIU Financial Aid Office will present FAFSA Fridays at NIU’s Swen Parson Hall, Room 245, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Representatives from the Financial Aid Office will be present to answer questions about financial aid and help students complete the FAFSA form. Participants should bring 2012 W-2 forms and/or federal income taxes for student and parent, along with PINs and passwords for the FAFSA website.

NIU will also host Am I Ready to Send My Kids to College? from 6 to 7 p.m. Friday at the NIU Family Health, Wellness and Literacy Center, Room 2305, 3100 Sycamore Road. This event is open to the public and is meant for parents who are having a hard time dealing with sending their child to college.

All workshops are free and open to the public.

For more information on events going on at other NIU campuses or off-campus, visit