Student reps to push for more financial literacy programs

Representatives to the Regents will urge U leaders to expand the Live Like a Student initiative.
June 11, 2014

In response to continual increases in tuition and student debt, student representatives to the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents are asking school leaders to help students spend wisely by boosting financial literacy programs across all the institution’s campuses.

In a presentation to the board on Friday, student representatives will urge the University’s administration to increase its commitment to teaching students personal finance skills by enhancing and expanding existing programs.

“I definitely think that as a whole system, we need to be a lot more financially literate, especially with our tuition as high as it is,” said Kimberly Newton, outgoing president of the University of Minnesota-Duluth Student Association.

The University’s Live Like a Student initiative, designed to help students adjust to living on a tight budget, has been especially effective on the Duluth campus, student representatives say, and it could be strengthened across the University’s five campuses.

The presentation to the board will include suggestions on how to tie Live Like a Student campaigns to each year of the student experience to ensure that students think of various ways they can save money.

The Minnesota Student Association is also considering creating a one-on-one peer financial counseling program, according to Board of Regents documents.

On the Twin Cities campus, the campaign includes a lesson during Welcome Week on being a thrifty student and a website with tips on spending wisely.

But in Duluth, Live Like a Student programming also includes an active social media campaign and a personal finance adviser, available to students throughout the year. That model should be used on all campuses, said Meghan Mason, chair of the student representatives to the board.

Newton said she’s impressed with the campaign on the Duluth campus, and she wishes it had been in place when she was a freshman.

As the first member of her family to attend a four-year college, Newton said, it was challenging to fill out her FAFSA and know how much she should take out in loans.

“I tended to just kind of fly by the seat of my pants and just take out money that I thought I needed,” she said. But if she had been able to access the Live Like a Student campaign, Newton said, she would have done more research.

Promoting financial comprehension is also an issue of equality and access, Mason said, because students from low-income backgrounds tend to have lower financial literacy levels and take longer to graduate than their peers.

Students who understand and manage their own finances are also more likely to perform well academically, Mason said, so helping students map out their college expenses would be in the University’s best interest.

Besides expanding the Live Like a Student campaign, student representatives will ask regents and administrators to consider more classroom instruction related to financial literacy, like personal finance courses.

They will also call on administrators to provide the online financial literacy training at more campuses. Currently, an optional program is offered to incoming freshmen at the Twin Cities campus in conjunction with AlcoholEdu, an alcohol safety course.

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