Jade Shugars, CAU Class of 2019, has hopes of becoming a homeowner soon. (Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)
Jade Shugars, CAU Class of 2019, has hopes of becoming a homeowner soon. (Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice)

Wells Fargo & Co., the San Francisco-based financial services and banking giant, recently presented Clark Atlanta University’s Office of Financial Literacy (OFL) with a $50,000 check to help the office continue to help educate students — both past and present — on preparing for real-world finances. The award includes five $1,000 scholarships that will go to students that are participating in the OFL’s WORTH events.

One of those events took place Thursday morning at the Henderson Student Center when Wells Fargo reps and CAU OFL leadership discussed the road to homeownership, one of this country’s most common paths to wealth and financial security. More than 65% of Americans are homeowners, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Less than half of Blacks in this country (44.7%) own a home, while nearly 75% of whites own a home. 

Offices like CAU’s OFL and corporations like Wells Fargo are attempting to make the transition from college student to homeowner more visible. “I came out here by myself and didn’t have housing or anything solidified,” said Jade Shugars, CAU Class of 2019. Shugars shared a story of her parents discouraging her from attending CAU out of high school. She decided to come study in Atlanta after graduating from a junior college and had to learn the hard way on how to balance working and her studies. She would find the Office of Financial Literacy after being, “Tired of struggling,” she said. Three years after graduating she lives in a Midtown apartment, is gainfully employed and relishes the financial freedom she now has. “I don’t have to look at my bank account and be afraid to buy groceries or buy a tire if I need one, Shugars said.” 

Geoffrey Loften, Vice President, Urban League Greater Atlanta Young Professionals, is a first-time homeowner. He closed on his Atlanta home in August and spoke of being “under contract for years.” 

Some of the lessons he learned through that process were about not trying to keep up with friends that he might feel like were moving faster than him financially. “Don’t let an agent, a builder, or anybody pressure you into signing anything,” he said when it was his turn to take the microphone that was being passed around the table. “Don’t be pressured into anything outside of what you know you can afford.”

Some of the lessons that the experts from the OFL and Wells Fargo shared with their guests:

  1. Make a housing choice that has what you need first and what you want second
  2. Find your money first, not your house
  3. Know your credit score and understand how to read your credit report
  4. Make sure you borrow at the best rate possible
  5. Learn to save by separating needs from wants
  6. Do not co-sign for anyone

Leah Hernandez, also of the Class of 2019, was a first-generation college student and not from a wealthy family that could just pay for her to attend her dream school: Clark Atlanta University. She had to take out loans for her freshman year. She learned from the OFL that there are scholarships that could help with the cost of tuition. “Look for scholarships, they are out there,” she said. 

Hernandez is also looking to buy a home soon and the fact that she no longer has student loans to worry about because of all the scholarships she applied for and won is a direct result of what she learned at the OFL. 

The tag line for the OFL is “Learn, Apply, Succeed” and for many of the people around that table that is exactly what happened. There will be more CAU students walking into the OFL offices Monday morning and they will be more people to help guide towards a more financially free future. With Wells Fargo’s help that will remain possible.

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