Creative Financial Education Pays Extra Dividends at This University
By Susan Beacham
January 27, 2017
While education officials around the country wrestle with where and how to formally bring financial literacy lessons into schools, at least one enterprising college administrator decided the effort was too important to wait. She launched three local programs that have hit big with students.
“We saw that without intervention our students would be vulnerable to debt, and possibly graduate into an occupation that would not be their first choice,” says Jane Clinard, program coordinator for the office of admissions at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. “They would be forced to work in a field that would help them service their debt rather than their dreams.”
With the blessing of university officials, who Clinard says see financial education as a critical part of the college experience, she got behind a movement to improve college students’ finances through engaging programs that exposed students to budgets, saving techniques, money management and more. The goal was to get students to commit to controlling their financial lives.
The university understood it needed to integrate financial education into the daily lives of the students. That called for creative approaches outside the classroom, as students went about their day. Here is what school officials came up with:
Cash Cab Inspired by the Discovery Channel show, Cash Cab, which aired between 2005 and 2012, involves a golf cart and driver going around campus and offering rides to students. In the cart, the students are asked a financial question and if they answer correctly they earn a free ride and a cash prize. “It gets very competitive,” Clinard says. “ We found we had students looking for us rather than us looking for them.”
Friday Night Lights This is an energy saving program that focuses attention on waste, and shows how easy it can be to find savings in a budget. Students initiated the program when some of them noticed classroom lights on campus burning all weekend long. They formed a group to meet every Friday evening and with the university’s permission walked around campus turning off the lights. Driving home the financial lesson: students in the Friday Night Lights group have been told they saved the school $77,000 while shrinking the school’s environmental footprint.
Falcon Millionaires This is a week-long financial camp held every June and hosted by the university. It is offered to students entering 8th and 9th grade and features lessons in budgeting, investing, banking and philanthropy. In its seventh year, the program has graduated 250 campers and this Fall will be sending its second class to college more financially literate and better prepared to handle money away from home. Last year, Friday Night Lights was introduced to campers as well, and in a short time the savings amounted to $653–later donated to Habitat for Humanity to purchase energy efficient lighting for three Habitat homes. “Combining the financial education we do on campus with outreach in our communities to younger students helps us leverage our work and also reach students that we hope to later see on campus,” says Clinard. Indeed, 13 students from the latest eligible class of Falcon Millionaires have already applied to Bowling Green.