Helping students become financially fit

Students at Youngstown State University aren’t required to take any courses in financial literacy, but instructors and students alike think that should change.

“I think it’s one of those things that’s worth bubbling up to be discussed at the appropriate committee or body at the university,” said David Stout, a professor of accounting and finance at YSU.

In a 2009 study by Charles Schwab, an investing and banking agency, young adults did not list college as one of the places they learned about managing money.

Financial planners say young adults should be thinking about retirement and saving money, controlling spending and staying away from debt.

YSU graduate Sara Rodack said that while she felt YSU prepared her to get a job to pay off loans, it did not teach her to manage money.

“I didn’t have any classes at YSU which prepared me with information on how to understand finance,” Rodack said. “Luckily, I was taught financial literacy from my parents growing up and was prepared from them.”

Campus isn’t without its resources, though. New this year on the university’s student accounts home page is a link to http://www.cashcourse.org/ysu, which is a website devoted to improving financial literacy.

Christine Adams, assistant reference librarian of business and economics, also compiled a set of financial literacy resources on Maag Library’s website. Students can access this information by going to http://maagblog.ysu.edu/financialliteracy.

YSU does offer one elective course on personal finance management during the fall semester. None of the resources YSU does have, however, have been highly publicized.

“I think that’s significant,” Stout said of the elective course. “Because not all programs of our size offer a course like that.”

Ray Shaffer, a professor of accounting and finance, said he and a small group of faculty members sought ways to promote financial literacy on campus last year, but no ideas have been implemented and the project is on hold.

“Most schools are like us,” Shaffer said. “Some things are being done, and some things could be done more and better.”

Shaffer said he and YSU faculty members looked at other schools and at a couple of exceptional locations; they came across programs that use ideas like an on-campus financial literacy cash cab.

Bowling Green State University’s Student Money Management Services hosts BGSU’s Money Cart program. Students are picked up in a BGSU golf cart and are asked questions to test their financial knowledge.

“Of course, it takes resources to do that,” Shaffer said. “And there are a couple schools that have a whole department or a whole area that’s very well funded that promotes financial literacy. And we don’t have that luxury here.”

BGSU offers one-on-one financial counseling, seminars on financial literacy and help with other money management needs, like the creation of spending and payment plans.

Shaffer suggested that a more attainable goal at YSU is hosting sessions on financial literacy at student orientations or Crash Days, or including handouts in new students’ information packets.

“I saw a lot of students at YSU struggle with money when I was at school, and [they] were not always sure what to do,” Rodack said.

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