A new UM-Flint course called Personal Finance will help students better understand how to handle money. The idea for the course came about through the Office of Financial Aid and with the help of a School of Management (SOM) faculty member. The course will be offered this fall.
Lori Vedder, Financial Aid director says that part of the university's responsibility to students is to teach financial literacy. So what is it? Financial literacy is very encompassing, and tends to include topics like personal budgeting, understanding credit cards, student loan debt and default, credit scores, saving for retirement, balancing a checkbook, etc.
"We found that too many of our students that we chatted with may have heard about all of this, but don't know where to begin to act on much of it," noted Vedder.
To lay some groundwork for what should be included in the course, Financial Aid staff started by hiring a student intern last fall who conducted a student survey to find out how much students felt they knew about personal finances. The survey was designed by SOM accounting professor Keith Moreland in collaboration with Financial Aid staff and the intern.
"The survey (of 605 students) reiterated that the majority of our students are taking out loans to pay for their education, and the amounts are significant," said Moreland. "Learning how to budget, manage the amounts they borrow, and knowing their repayment options are very important in making sure that college loan debt doesn't get overwhelming."
The survey also showed that one way students would like to get more information about personal finance is online, rather than attending workshops for example.
The results of the survey led to the design of the new course. With the support of the Provost, SOM, and others, the new course is being launched this fall. Eventually, if the course is successful (it filled quite rapidly during registration), the Financial Aid staff would like to see it become a mandatory course for all UM-Flint students.
"I would say that all students benefit from learning about finance. It might be that some students–finance and accounting students, primarily–get enough in other courses. Certainly students borrowing money can benefit greatly from personal finance," said Moreland.
The course is taught by SOM's John Stephens, DBA.