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Financial literacy content providers on parent outreach

Industry experts were asked: How are colleges doing in educating parents on financial literacy? What else should they be doing?
University Business, July 2015

“Parents need a thorough understanding of the costs related to college and the options for paying college expenses. The need for timely, understandable information is especially acute in households with no previous experience with the going-to-college process. Colleges often assume parents already have knowledge about budgeting for college, the cost of student loans and effective repayment strategies, so they often don’t address these issues when they provide parents with information.”

—George Covino, vice president of consulting, USA Funds

“For most families, conversations about how they’ll pay for college bring on a range of emotions, from feeling nervous and overwhelmed to even overconfident. Schools should publish resources with tips for parents and students to help cope with the emotions involved in paying for college. They should also create tools for parents that can broaden financial discussions to other topics besides how they’ll pay for school—like budgeting, credit cards and managing debt with their child.”

—Alle Lanza, director of corporate communications, American Student Assistance

“Too many parents are just ill-equipped to make the best financial decisions when it comes to paying for college, and schools are challenged to provide them with timely information. This lack of knowledge can absolutely affect a school’s enrollment numbers and retention rate, and those supplying dynamic financial literacy resources for the student and parent will be the ones ahead of the curve. Financial literacy can affect a school’s bottom line in a positive way and is being looked at more and more as a necessity rather than a ‘nice to have.’ ”

—Rob LaBreche, CEO, iGrad

“There is a hesitation to make [student financial education] programs mandatory. Very often, the end result is that the students who could benefit the most do not avail themselves of this service. The key is to include the parents. Participation as a result of parental influence would be greater. [And] parents could increase their own financial literacy levels without the perceived shame of admitting they need help. [It’s] a win-win for parents, their sons and daughters, and the colleges.”

—Carissa Uhlman, vice president of student success, Inceptia

“Schools can help parents by clarifying expectations about who is responsible for which college costs. For example, if the parent is helping to cover tuition and fees, who will pay for books and living expenses? It also means making sure the student has experience with managing a bank account, knows the difference between a debit card and a credit card, sets up a budget, and understands the importance of protecting their identity. Once a student is enrolled, it may be more difficult to reach parents about specific financial issues, especially with current privacy rules.”

—Mary Johnson, vice president for financial literacy/student aid policy, Higher One

“Have the students help figure out the best methods to reach the parents and what content would be relevant. To educate both the parents and the students, it’s important to teach each group based on their own finances. The fine print is just as small on all credit card contracts. Developing a spending plan is the same process regardless if you are using wages or financial aid as income. Comparing loans is the same regardless if it is a mortgage or student loan. Teach the same skill to both groups, but make it relevant to the target audience.”

—Brenda Vaughn, senior consultant, TG’s Student Financial Education

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