Refinancing a home

GVL/Maya Grant 
Brenda Mitchner and Meghan Veltri

GVL/Maya Grant Brenda Mitchner and Meghan Veltri

Constance Turnbull

When Grand Valley State University’s Freshman Academy Director Sulari White tried to refinance her house, she contacted her sister, Mercantile Bank’s Senior Vice President Sonali Allen. As the sisters worked together to fulfill the bank’s requirements, White realized that many others could benefit from the information she was receiving.

As a member of the on-campus group Positive Black Women, White communicated with Mercantile Bank to host the Mortgage Lunch and Learn event on Jan. 27 at GVSU.

“We know from data that black women are disenfranchised when it comes to home ownership,” said Women’s Center Director Jessica Jennrich. “Having a presentation about mortgages gives the African American women here at GVSU more of an understanding of how to navigate the lending system.”

Jennrich explained that African American women traditionally have trouble getting good deals on loans.

“Education in this area means that these women can stay at our university longer and have more of an impact on the African American community,” Jennrich said.

The event was coordinated by Allen, Daniel Cavanaugh and Rose Constantine, all from Mercantile Bank, and answered questions about the specifics of refinancing a house.

“Most people don’t understand the process,” Allen said. “Your mortgage will be your greatest monthly expense.”

Students learned about many different financial areas during the meeting, including the current interest rates on 15 and 30 year loans, how home affordability refinance programs are available to individuals and how to improve credit score.

Positive Black Women member Allison Montaie explained that, before the presentation, she did not know how to prepare for financing a house. Recently married, she has always viewed the mortgaging system as scary.

“I learned a lot of vocabulary, financial language and how to do research,” Montaie said “I got to hear about a lot of different services that banks provide in terms of being prepared to buy a house.”

Positive Black Women is a faculty and staff organization which supports African American women on campus through mentoring, scholarships and discussion. It is closely associated with the student group You Beautiful Black Woman, and many members of Positive Black Women mentor female African American students.

Jennrich explained that Positive Black Women helps retain faculty and staff who are women of color.

“Having a group like this helps the women to have a support system,” Jennrich said. “They meet once a month, are involved on campus and have different speakers at their meetings.”

Positive Black Women holds meetings that are open to members as well as the public. The executive board hosts presenters who will share information that is domestically relevant to the members of the group.

For more information about the organization, visit

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