Why Financial Literacy Should Be Part of Every Community College Education

By AACC Staff

Some colleges are leading the way with programs that educate students about managing their money.

Students gain many valuable skills at our nation’s community colleges. From coding to creative writing, the knowledge obtained at these institutions prepares students for lifelong careers. But what good are these skills if students don’t have an understanding of how to manage the money they will be earning when they land their postgraduation jobs? In order to put students on the path to true self-sustainability, community colleges should offer courses in personal finance.

Most students who attend public high schools in the United States are not required to complete a course in financial awareness before graduation. A study by the Center for Financial Literacy, at Champlain College, in Vermont, gave 44 percent of states a D or an F when it came to producing financially literate high school seniors.

The state of financial literacy at colleges

Institutions of higher education have not picked up this slack; a majority of Americans older than 50 who have college degrees could not correctly answer all three questions in a simple financial-literacy test created by researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the George Washington University School of Business. Their report details the simple questions used in the test and explains the strong correlation between financial literacy and sound financial decision-making throughout a person’s life.

Across the country, three in four adults agree that they could benefit from financial advice from a professional. So how can community colleges help equip students with the tools they need to manage their finances effectively?

Programs are popping up

Some schools have taken steps to educate students on financial matters. South Mountain Community College has been conducting a mandatory Personal Money Management course since 2001. The University of Mississippi partnered with a bank to offer a six-week course on the basics of personal finance. Organizations such as The Society for Financial Awareness regularly donate time to community colleges to provide financial-literacy seminars. These programs should be replicated nationwide.

Financial literacy is particularly necessary for today’s college students, many of whom are faced with college debt and limited budgets after graduation. The courses can also teach about investing in the stock market and avoiding credit card debt, key tools for navigating the world after college. If community colleges teach these skills early on, students can even learn to balance their budgets while still in school.

As our country emerges from years of financial crisis and mounting student debt, it is more important than ever for community college students to understand how to manage their money. Offering courses or seminars in financial literacy is one more way we can better prepare our students for success in college and beyond.

AACC Staff

contributed to this report.

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