Dollars and sense

Toni Owens

Financial education helped K-State graduate Toni Owens reach her financial and educational goals.

“My financial literacy was at ground zero when I came to college.”

Toni Owens arrived at Kansas State University with a lot of potential and the responsibility of paying for college all on her own.

“I moved out as a teenager,” Toni explained. “I didn’t know much about anything other than to try to pay my bills on time. I didn’t have a budget, nor had I ever seen one. I didn’t know anything about credit cards, interest rates or investing.”

Toni quickly became involved on campus, and she started to notice something.

“Jodi Kaus, the director of Powercat Financial, kept showing up at my clubs to talk to us about our finances,” Toni said. “I would never have gone to her for help on my own but hearing her speak to so many of my groups made me realize that maybe I should give Powercat Financial a chance to help me.”

That decision changed her life.

“I was struggling at the time, trying to make ends meet, trying to support myself with minimal income,” Toni said. “I had multiple jobs, but I felt like everything was slipping through my fingers. Sometimes I had to choose between paying the water bill or gas bill. When I heard about Powercat Financial, it seemed like that was exactly what I needed.”

The power of knowledge

Toni met with Jodi, who helped her get her finances in order so she could focus on being a student. She learned budgeting, the importance of creating good credit and about post-college financial decision making.

Understanding her personal finances — something most universities never teach — put her on the road to success. Toni graduated from K-State with degrees in social work and social sciences with a minor in American ethnic studies. She has a Master of Social Work degree from Park University and her Ph.D. in human and community development from West Virginia University.

“I am so proud of Toni,” Jodi said. “She had a lot of financial stress, but all she needed was guidance and education, and she turned it around. By equipping her with financial skills, she’s reaching those goals she set for herself.  Toni is an example of the impact we can have for somebody’s lifetime.”

Paying it forward

Toni not only has her own finances in order, but she is also passing on her knowledge to her extended family and community.

“At West Virginia University, I started a program called Passport to Holistic Wellness. It has three facets — emotional wellness, physical wellness and financial wellness,” Toni said. “I consulted with Jodi about building out the financial wellness piece, because I do believe it’s a part of holistic wellness.”

All In for financial futures

Toni is just one of many success stories from Powercat Financial, and now K-State is looking to bring that success campuswide.

On March 22, 2023, All In for K-State, the university’s day of giving, raised more than $1 million to bring financial education to all new students, equipping them with the knowledge they need to make smart decisions and relieve some stress.

It starts with free financial well-being courses offered to all incoming students and adding more peer counselors to extend Powercat Financial’s reach.

A lifetime benefit

Through the financial futures initiative, K-State students will learn valuable skills that will help them while a student and long after graduation.

“The opportunity for students to learn financial literacy skills is life changing,” Toni said. “There are some mistakes I made when I was a freshman and sophomore that I’m still paying for. If I had the opportunity to take a class that would have given me that knowledge, it would have changed my life completely.”

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zach hanood

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Tom Curoe Development Officer - Universitywide