Revamped PEWL Financial Independence Program Introduced This Spring

Piggy Bank with Coins

April is National Financial Capability Month. Originally designated as National Financial Literacy Month in 2004, this observance has evolved to focus on financial literacy and ensure that Americans have access to equitable and dependable financial information.

In appreciation of this observance, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) applauds the debut of a revamped Financial Independence Now (FIN) Learning and Coaching program, a partnership between the School's Office of Professional Education and Workplace Learning (PEWL), the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS), and Change Machine.

This optimized version of the FIN program was piloted this winter and is being introduced to low-barrier and adult services shelters this spring.

PEWL Program Director Jennifer DePalma said what began as a live in-person training and then moved to virtual learning on Zoom with access to eLearning modules and coaching tools online has been enhanced further and converted into a primarily asynchronous training that includes a one-hour live kick-off session for the participants.

During the live session, learners receive a course overview of the learning objectives and the self-paced modules. "I'm excited about this new optimized version of FIN," DePalma said. "DHS really wanted to enhance the online learning experience for those taking the course and I think it will be well-received."

She added that office hours have been included as part of the optimized program to assist with the content, and technical related support is also offered for navigating and using the online learning platform.

In January 2018, this partnership was formed with the goal of equipping DHS agency and shelter staff, including DHS contracted provider-partner staff at shelter sites, with the tools to lead conversations with clients about personal finances, including the assessment of credit scores and reports, developing spending and savings plans, managing credit and debt, and finding no cost or low-cost banking services.

Since the training launched in September 2018, nearly 800 shelter and agency staff have been trained across approximately 157 shelters and low-barrier programs serving a range of clients, including single adults, adult families, and families with children. The program aims to reach all the agency’s shelters across all five boroughs.

Beatriz Fritschler, DSS deputy commissioner for strategic partnerships, was one of several people who recently tested the piloted program.

"I loved the focus on coaching," she said. “The focus of the coaching model is empowerment. I like the handouts and how they provide tools that shelter staff can use with the individual clients. I also liked that they dismantled some beliefs about documentation and credit, especially because that may be a huge challenge for our shelter clients."

Fritschler added that the city has a lot of shelter residents that may have different kinds of immigration documentation status, and that many shelter clients don't have any credit history, or a negative credit history.

"You don't want to create the belief that there's no way that they can overcome this," she said. "The program content addresses this and is excellent."

About the Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services, comprised of the Human Resources Administration (HRA) and the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), serves more than three million New Yorkers annually through a broad range of services that aim to address poverty, income inequality, and prevent homelessness. HRA serves over 3 million New Yorkers through the administration of more than 12 major public assistance programs. DHS oversees a broad network of shelters and services dedicated to helping New Yorkers experiencing homelessness get back on their feet. DSS is central to the City’s mission to expand opportunity for more New Yorkers, address income inequality, help New Yorkers experiencing homelessness stabilize their lives, and ensure that vulnerable New Yorkers receive the benefits and assistance to which they are entitled.

About the CUNY School of Professional Studies

As New York's leading online school since 2006, the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) offers the most online bachelor's and master's degree options at the City University of New York, and serves as the University's first undergraduate all-transfer college. With 26 degrees and numerous other non-degree and grant-funded workplace learning programs, CUNY SPS meets the needs of adults who wish to finish a bachelor's degree, progress from an associate's degree, earn a master's degree or certificate in a specialized field, and advance in the workplace or change careers. Consistently ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report for its online offerings, CUNY SPS has emerged as a nationwide leader in online education. The School's renowned and affordable online programs ensure that busy working adults may fulfill their educational goals on their own time and schedule.

Press Contact
Andrea Fagon
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer