College students have a lot on their plate. Between going to class, studying for tests, engaging in extracurriculars, and, for many, working one or more jobs, little time is left over. Given that financial literacy training is not a standard requirement, students can enroll and graduate from college unsure of how to budget, plan financially, and repay loans. College of DuPage in Illinois is working to ensure that their students are ahead of the curve.
In the fall semester, College of DuPage hosts a program called “Life Happens.” Students participate in a modified game of LIFE designed to increase knowledge of budgeting techniques and a variety of financial situations they might find themselves in. For example, if you have two children and earn $50,000 a year, can you afford to buy a luxury car, or would a used car make more sense? Students work their way around the room making these decisions just as game pieces move around the board in LIFE. In a presentation at ACCT’s annual Leadership Congress, presenters from the College of DuPage described the event and distributed a sample of the materials available.
Some of the tips included are:
1) Research interest rates and savings programs at various banks to see what is going to be most convenient and beneficial to you. Some banks offer programs designed to help you save, often rewarding you with bonuses if you reach a set amount in a certain time.
2) Set yourself up for success by making a goal for yourself and deciding ahead of time how much money you are going to contribute to you savings account. It can either be a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your salary, but it’s easiest to put that money away when you’ve budgeted to do so.
3) Put a portion of your pay into savings automatically through direct deposit with your employer or set up an automatic transfer to happen at the same time every pay interval. By doing this, the money will be out of your checking before you have the opportunity to miss it.
The Wisconsin HOPE Lab and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) released a report in March titled “Hungry and Homeless in College.” The report contains the results of a survey of 33,000 students at 70 community colleges nationwide and finds food insecurity rates ranging from 20 to 40 percent, and housing insecurity rates reaching as high as 50 percent. All of these instances of food and housing insecurity cannot be directly attributed to a lack of financial literacy, but any effort made to increase students’ understanding of their financial situation and plan for the future will be a considerable help.