By MARRISSA ALLEN
Financial literacy is something that most liberal arts students are not as familiar with as they should be. Financial literacy encompasses the many ways an individual earns and manages their finances, which is something St. Lawrence economics majors are very familiar with, but the rest of us are not. Having this kind of knowledge and understanding about finances is essential to living on your own after college, but where are we supposed to learn this information if not in class? Sydney Fallone ’17 reflects on the importance of financial literacy: “St. Lawrence has done an excellent job cultivating our critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, but to be fully successful beyond St. Lawrence, students need more concrete knowledge about practical skills, like filing taxes, investing in retirement, and choosing loan repayment plans, among other things.
So why, if students feel this way, is there not a course at SLU to teach us about how to deal with our finances? There are some colleges, such as Chatham University and Yale University that do teach courses and conduct workshops on financial literacy for their students, putting them on a path toward understanding the complex world of managing money.
According to iGrad.com, Chatham University started offering a weekly financial wellness course in August 2014 allowing both undergraduates and graduates to enroll. This course was intended to give graduating students some peace of mind in regard to budgeting, spending, and loan and debt management. The addition of this course into the curriculum has opened many students’ eyes to the realities of debt and how to cope and deal with it. This program is an open space where students share their “financial realities” in order to make students more comfortable talking about money. The class also teaches students how to build good credit and apply the concepts learned in class to the “real world.” This university is taking the first steps towards producing more financially literate graduates.
Yale University started their workshop program in April 2013, and according to the Yale Daily News, the workshop continues to succeed two years later. The program is alumni-led and has been held 110 times, reaching over 2,600 Yale graduates. Currently the program features presentations on “budgeting, taxes, employee benefits and retirement plans,” but attendees have been asking for a greater depth of material. The alumni organization that runs the event has also expressed the desire to add more topics to the program, including investment managing and mortgages. Even without the extra topics, the participants give their experience in the workshop high praise, demonstrating the usefulness of the workshop.
Should SLU follow this example and start a workshop to teach students about finances to prepare us for the real world? Annie Wilcox ’17 believes so. “There’s so much to learn about managing my finances, it can be overwhelming. I feel students would really benefit from learning financial literacy in a classroom setting.” With the date of graduation impending, seniors are concerned about their ability to be successful in the world. Particularly, students graduating college this year clearly remember how devastating the 2008 Housing Crash was for many families who lost investments, making them more cautious about where and how to invest and save after graduation. So, what can SLU do? Well, for starters, a workshop should be available to students. Looking at the success that other universities have had with their programs is proof that this is something that students want. Ideally, St. Lawrence alumni, similar to Yale’s program, would lead this program. This would motivate students to attend the program even more because the person teaching them how to live in the “real world” would know exactly how they feel because they were once in our shoes. A financial literacy program at St. Lawrence would give students the tools they need in order to succeed.
It’s never too early to start getting your finances organized and plan for the future. Thinking about life after college can be nerve-wracking, but workshops that teach valuable skills, like financial literacy, would give us some peace of mind. Teaching SLU students these skills will help engrain in us a sense of financial responsibility and prepare us for various financial situations that graduates inevitably have. When it’s time to leave the “SLU Bubble,” students will be well prepared.