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“I didn’t think it was real.”
Ugochukwu Nnadi’s response after reading about WSU’s Invest in Success program was typical for students. The opportunity to receive $4,000 toward educational expenses while learning how to save their own earnings is indeed an unbelievable opportunity. But Nnadi is one of 85 students in the initial cohort, and he’s on his way to earning the funds, and his degree.
Invest in Success helped keep Nnadi’s college dream afloat. Halfway through his sophomore year, Nnadi wasn’t sure he’d be able to continue at WSU.
“I was worried about next year, honestly,” Nnadi says. “I had scholarships, but if they fell through, next year was really iffy. “
Nnadi is more than halfway toward saving the $1,000 required to receive the maximum $4,000 in matching funds. He displayed his commitment to the program by taking the $500 from his rent deposit and putting it into his savings account.
With a major payoff in sight and solid financial planning for the future, Nnadi can focus on his goal of earning his degree and building his career in cloud systems, or data analytics.
“It’s definitely a struggle and sometimes you second-guess yourself when you’re putting away money and you feel like you really need it,” says Nnadi. “But in the long run, it’s going to help you way more than it is now.”
A few months into her college career, Shannon Emmons was feeling the pressure of living on her own, paying bills, and managing a busy schedule.
“I was questioning if I could support myself,” Emmons says. “When I heard from Kelly (Demand – program coordinator for Invest in Success), I said, ‘You’re a savior.’ This program really helps me invest in my future, and that’s what drove me to apply.”
The freshman from Deer Park is thankful for the Invest in Success program. She applied and was accepted into the program in early 2016, and her future at WSU is much brighter.
“Now I feel a lot more independent,” she says. “In high school, we didn’t learn how to budget, how to pay bills, or how to do taxes, and those are all things this program teaches us.”
Without the Invest in Success program, Emmons says her college career would be in doubt.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’d be able to go here without it,” she says. “But now I’ve signed a lease for the next few years, I have a job for the summer. I’m able to look at the future and not freak out. I have a fallback.”
The first semester of college often brings priorities into focus very quickly.
And for Brandon Waugh, that meant no more Netflix binge sessions.
Waugh received an email about the Invest in Success program late last year and couldn’t believe what he was reading. The program, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers students the chance to save up to $1,000 and receive as much as $4,000 in matching funds. They also receive financial literacy tools and additional program support.
Waugh applied and was thrilled to gain acceptance into the inaugural cohort this spring. Then he laid out his budget. In order to reach his goal of saving $100 per month, non-essentials like Netflix and Hulu had to go.
“It was OK, I didn’t really have the time anyway,” Waugh says. “I had to cut out a lot of little things.”
The sacrifices are poised to payoff before the end of 2016 as Waugh plans to be eligible for $4,000 in matching funds through Invest in Success.
In addition to the carrot of cash for educational expenses, Waugh and the 84 other students in the cohort receive financial literacy training, and support from program coordinator Kelly Demand.
When students check in with Demand, she’s able to show them their earnings, with the compounded interest, which always results in wide smiles. Waugh works as a cashier at the Dollar Tree, and saves as much as he can each month. It’s adding up, and the prospect of $4,000 in matching funds is plenty of motivation.
“All these things fell into place so that I would be able to continue on at Washington State, so that’s really exciting,” Waugh says.
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