College Plans Expansion of Financial Literacy Program

Kate Kingma

Beth Tallman, coordinator of the Financial Literacy and Creativity and Leadership Program, is looking to expand the Oberlin Financial Literacy Program, a program based out of the Conservatory Entrepreneurship Department and currently centered around the Fundamentals of Finance course. The one-credit co-curricular course now offered will likely be reformed into a more comprehensive two-credit academic course. Tallman, with the help of a committee, also plans to create new web-based content.

According to Tallman, this web-based content is central to expanding the Financial Literacy Program beyond just the academic classroom. “[Financial Literacy] has to be a program, not just a course,” said Tallman.

Tallman is developing the framework to provide online modules.

These modules will provide easily accessible content to students and alumni interested in learning about personal finance.

The establishment of these internet modules will be guided by responses from the National Student Financial Wellness Study survey. This survey, a nationwide follow-up to the 2010 Ohio-centered financial wellness survey, was emailed earlier this month to 500 Oberlin students.

The survey gauges how much financial independence is afforded by students and how much knowledge they have when it comes to controlling their finances. According to Tallman, the survey will allow the College to estimate how the student body’s financial literacy compares to that of similar institutions. Also, by seeing where students are in terms of their knowledge, students can participate in the online module appropriate to their skill level.

Tallman plans to select a student task force of volunteers who will provide input on different financial literacy modules.

According to Tallman, the expansion of the course, as well as the new modules, will provide a more comprehensive overview of student finance.

“More students will have the incentive to take it if it’s a curricular class, and with the two credits we have more time to go into depth on all the topics,” said Tallman. Tallman says she is confident that these changes to the course will be approved by the Educational Plans and Policies Committee.

Conservatory senior Camille Ripple, who took the course in its current one- module form, felt this expansion could make the course more useful.

“I think it should be a required course, or at least more advertised and recommended by advisors,” said Ripple in an email to the Review. “If anything, it could be a semester long so we can go into more detail.”

Tallman says the program is a response to increasing nationwide student debts. Students graduating in 2012 from colleges around the nation averaged $27,183 in student loan debt. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that graduates and students have collectively accrued over $1.2 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt.

According to Tallman, the program will help address this problem by educating students about financial realities.

“You keep reading in the press about student loans, and how it’s the next bubble, and how it’s the next everything,” says Tallman. “I think everyone needs to get educated about it, rather than getting caught up in the hype or saying that we don’t need to worry about it. We do need to worry about it.”

Students learn about selecting stocks, credit card use, insurance and mutual funds, among other topics. College junior Sam Coates-Finke said he felt this information provided him with applicable skills.

“We learned stuff that I was going to have to learn no matter what, and I benefited from learning in the safety of a classroom rather than in the scary real world,” said Coates-Finke in an email to the Review.