Ways to Introduce College Students to Financial Education: Successful Answers to a Multiple-Choice Question
New consumer protections for credit cards reported in the Fall 2009 issue of Money Smart News include provisions intended to help college students avoid becoming overwhelmed by debt. Since college is the first time many young adults must independently make decisions about how they earn, spend and protect their money, this edition of our Success Stories focuses on how educators can help students gain the knowledge and tools they need, especially using the Money Smart curriculum.
Here are tips from FDIC staff based in part on past successes and plans reported by Money Smart partners:
Conduct a financial education workshop during orientation for all entering freshmen. At Howard University in Washington, DC, all students are required to attend a financial education workshop based on Money Smart during freshman orientation. In addition, incoming students who participate in the School of Business' "21st Century Advantage Program" – a teamwork-oriented undergraduate business curriculum beginning at the freshman level – will receive five additional points toward their grade in a class if they also attend the Money Smart workshop.
"Financial education is a need for students of all majors," said Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDIC's Community Affairs Outreach Section. "An excellent way to help students get their academic career started on a solid foundation financially is for students to learn the basics of handling their personal fiannces during freshman orientation."
Integrate financial education into the required curriculum for enrolled students. Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, starting in the fall of 2010, will be offering content from FDIC's financial education program to all students. In addition, another financial education component using Money Smart will be required for all non-business students taking an introductory economics class. Benedict also will add financial education to its micro and macroeconomics courses for business majors.
These requirements supplement existing programs at Benedict that include a requirement that all students must complete 120 hours of "service learning" before graduation by volunteering in the community. Many of them help out at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites, which are coordinated by the Internal Revenue Service, another Money Smart partner.
Add financial education to academic or workforce degree/certificate programs. The Houston Community College System in Houston, Texas, is incorporating the Money Smart curriculum into its "Student Success" classes for all incoming students as well as a workforce development course open to anyone.
"The basic skills taught through Money Smart have been great additions to the orientation process, as they convey essential 'life skills' needed to become a successful student," said Earl F. Smith, Division Chair for Business, Finance and Legal Studies at Houston Community College. In particular, he cited the Money Smart material on managing a checking account, developing a budget, and using credit cards responsibly.
Reach out to the younger generation through the Internet and other high-tech learning tools. The University of Texas at San Antonio links to the Money Smart Podcast Network, the portable audio MP3 version of the FDIC curriculum. Here’s how the school promotes the service to students: "Charge up your MP3 player, download the FDIC Money Smart Podcast Network, and learn as you walk, jog, relax by the pool or wherever you find yourself without a computer."
At Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Professor W. Scott Street IV uses the Money Smart Computer-Based Instruction (CBI) online materials as his course material for a personal finance class. "I require the students to earn mastery certificates in each of the 10 modules before taking tests on the material," he said. "This semester we have nearly 1,600 students enrolled in the course."
Irma Matias, an FDIC Community Affairs Specialist, also encouraged financial educators to "consider using social networking technology to send quick tips via cell phones or e-mail." She noted that one easy source for material is the FDIC's Consumer Tip of the Week service.
Find other creative ways to piggyback onto other existing outlets for educating students. Among the possibilities: Publish financial education tips in a university newspaper or newsletter. Incorporate personal finance stories on university radio and television stations. Also, distribute financial education material in the school’s financial aid office.
Reynolds of the FDIC also urged educators to "identify ways to combine education with action, such as by encouraging college students to commit to specific savings goals, perhaps as part of a program with a local America Saves affiliate."
In conclusion, Reynolds said, "Financial education activities for college students shouldn't stop at a single workshop or series. Also remember that the educational needs and interests of incoming freshman will differ from students who are about to graduate, so target your programs appropriately."