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Helping higher ed students avoid post-graduation pitfalls

University Business, July 2018
READY FOR THE REAL WORLD—Students participate in a financial literacy course at Indiana University. The institution’s MoneySmarts U. program offers electives specifically for graduating seniors.
READY FOR THE REAL WORLD—Students participate in a financial literacy course at Indiana University. The institution’s MoneySmarts U. program offers electives specifically for graduating seniors.

Learning to pay bills amidst a first-time job search can be a foggy and drawn out process for undergraduates. Unfortunately, credit reporting processes don’t allow much time for students to find their financial bearings.

About 7 out of 10 graduates pay their credit cards over 30 days late during the time immediately after graduation, according to a 2018 survey by lending firm OppLoans.

Some colleges and universities tailor their financial literacy courses to students in the immediate transition from campus to the bigger world.

Financial classes at Indiana University cover interviews skills, relocation planning and budgeting, says Philip Schuman, senior director of financial literacy. The university’s financial initiative, MoneySmarts U., segments its courses by demographic, offering electives for freshmen, graduating seniors and students headed to graduate school.

MoneySmarts U.’s financial wellness model also focuses on behavior.

Taking on excessive credit debt or working too many hours to achieve financial goals can cause unnecessary stress. “Students come to college and are exposed to people from all different backgrounds,” says Schuman. “They gravitate toward what others have that they don’t.”

The program encourages students to envision what they want to achieve financially, while taking their identity into account.

Faculty from departments can add valuable insight, he says. For example, business faculty help determine which real-world financial topics to cover in class, and public health faculty share how financial stress may be reduced.

Translating the real world

Along with a general personal finance course, Texas Tech University created a career class covering employee benefits, job searches, tax planning, investment options and risk management.

The university offers the noncredit elective on campus or online, says Vickie Hampton, chair of the institution’s personal financial planning department. The digital course includes links to practice problems, videos and examples to illustrate concepts.

In addition, Texas Tech’s Office of Student Affairs sponsors Red to Black Peer Financial Coaching to provide guidance through one-on-one counseling sessions, presentations, and outreach booths offering swag and candy to participating students.

Colleges should consider requiring a three-credit course to assure all undergrads receive adequate financial information, says Hampton. Or, financial electives in the form of behavioral science and math courses might appeal to a more diverse group of students and encourage attendance.