York profs educate students on financial literacy, student debt

Finance equipment

Four York University professors are educating students about managing student debt, financial capability and financial well-being.

The professors hosted a Community Conversation in advance of the new school year to raise awareness around basic financial literacy and student debt solutions.

Under the auspices of the Black Creek Financial Action Network, economics Professor Brenda Spotton Visano co-hosted the Community Conversation with administrative studies Professors Chris Robinson, Jodi Letkiewicz and Joanne Magee, along with Lorna Schwartzentruber, manager of the York U – TD Community Engagement Centre. Spotton Visano and Magee are also professors in York’s School of Public Policy & Administration.

Professor Joanne Magee
Professor Jodi Letkiewicz
Professor Brenda Spotton Visano
Professor Chris Robinson









The June 6 event alerted students to the resources available to them on campus this Fall semester. On campus resources include financial advising offered through Student Financial Services, which also lists available scholarships, bursaries and awards and provides accessible information on financial aid and loans, among other valuable resources. Students are highly encouraged to take advantage of these often underused resources.

The Community Conversation was hosted at the York University-TD Community Engagement Centre, which fosters university-community collaborations. It provided an opportunity for community members to discuss debt issues facing students on low income. With the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) currently undergoing significant changes, this event addressed some of the corresponding anticipated issues. An OSAP representative provided an overview of the incoming changes and Sobhi Fanos, manager Financial Aid Processing at York’s Student Financial Services, provided information for participants about students with outstanding debt and other non-standard situations.

“We all appreciated the opportunity to network and to identify questions and issues related to both the new OSAP rules, as well as issues involving management of existing student debt and debt rehabilitation,” said Professor Spotton Visano. “The opportunity to meet in person went a good distance to building relationships with a network of community workers who complement York’s supports for some of our students. It was helpful the other way too, informing our community-based research in student debt policy and student financial empowerment.”

Spotton Visano said the feedback received will be valuable for further resource development within the local community.

Following the Community Conversation was a three-hour workshop on Resourcing Student Debt Solutions. The workshop provided opportunities to brainstorm solutions to the issues raised in the Conversation and for community credit counselors and financial empowerment coaches to develop the resources needed to help clients resolve complex student debt cases. The workshop covered topics, such as understanding and navigating the OSAP loan application process and the intersections between OSAP, Ontario Work (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

Ultimately, the goal was to provide basic financial literacy supports and assistance in resolving OSAP specific issues at the different stages, for example submitting applications, receiving OSAP loans for continuing post-secondary education students and repaying OSAP loans.

Other on campus resources include YU Money Smart, offered through Student Community & Leadership Development, which is a multi-part blog series designed to provide students with financial literacy.

The Community Conversation and workshop was well attended by local community members, professionals and representatives from 10 different community agencies and organizations. 

Community Conversations is run by the Global and Community Engagement team in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS). The conversations continue to encourage stimulating, inspiring and inclusive dialogue among different communities across the Greater Toronto Area on topics that are relevant and meaningful to the community. The goal is to actively and authentically enhance public engagement on a wide range of topics and to create inclusive spaces to exchange ideas. LA&PS invites faculty members and community partners to apply to host future Community Conversations and share their creative ideas.