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Davis, California

Friday, July 19, 2024

The importance of financial literacy at the collegiate level

UC Davis students and staff discuss options for students to become financially literate before entering the workforce


By ZOEY MORTAZAVI — features@theaggie.org


Throughout college, newfound financial freedom and responsibility hit the average student like a truck. Unexplored financial territory quickly plunges students neck-deep into student loans, bills, rent, taxes and plenty of other concepts that have been laid out since they were kids as “far off” or “adult” concepts. 

 The idea of the “broke college student” is a widely normalized concept, attached to stubborn stigmas announcing that college students have limited financial knowledge and can get themselves into trouble because of it. The question continues to present itself, asking whether anything can be done to begin taking some of these stigmas away. In other words, can college students beat the “financially illiterate” allegations? 

Alongside this question, many are beginning to advocate for financial education to not only be an option, but something that will eventually become mandatory for all college students. With many of these unprecedented concepts creeping up on them very quickly, many students at UC Davis have expressed concern for the lack of mandated financial education at the collegiate level. 

“If financial concepts are something we start to handle as young adults, it’s crazy that we aren’t taught more about them while we’re still young and in school,” Annaliese Dobbins, a first-year biochemistry major, said. “No one ever really explained how we’re just suddenly thrown into being an adult. It’s scary to feel like I don’t know how money works, and I want to change that. But with a major that has such a high unit count, I have a feeling I’ll struggle trying to fit a finance class into my schedule.” 

There are a handful of finance courses offered at UC Davis, many of which can be applied to different majors and general education credits. Many at UC Davis are beginning to promote and discuss the fact that if students can make room for finance classes in their schedules, they should. Utilizing resources like schedule planning and course advisement, students can do research to see whether they can make space for personal finance courses to help them better prepare for their futures. 

“Learning about personal finance early will definitely better prepare me for my financial life in the upcoming years,” Aditi Inamdar, a first-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, said. “As a student who is making the decision to change to the managerial economics major, taking some of these classes early on and learning finance will definitely help me grow within the business field.”

Professors working in economics at Davis aim to remind students that they should make time to learn about the nuances of the financial world so that it doesn’t creep up on them. Countless organizations and foundations work tirelessly to spread the message that college is a crucial time to become financially literate

The U.S. News and World Report wrote that in a survey of approximately 30,000 college students from across the nation — coverage of over 440 institutions — only 53% reported that they felt remotely prepared to handle their individual finances. 

“On the college side of things, we want to take whatever is taught in high school, if anything, and expand upon it,” Phil Schuman, president of the Higher Education Financial Wellness Alliance and executive director of financial wellness and education at Indiana University — Bloomington, said. “Really provide people a look at what post-college life could look like with what their financial situation may be based on their degree and based on how much student loan debt they may have.” 

Many groups, including recent efforts by nonprofits such as Next Gen Personal Finance,  have put efforts toward implementing more personal finance course options in the state of California, hopefully being fully mandated by 2029. However, it is a difficult thing to implement at a mandatory level for students. Despite the difficulty, there are many advocating for the eventual mandate of financial education courses for students — their advocacy argues that the payoff will be well worth it for students as they transition from college into their adult lives. 

“A good foundation in finance is essential in today’s volatile market,” Jens Hilscher, a UC Davis professor who teaches a principles of finance course, said. “Whether saving for retirement, saving for a down payment on a house, choosing financing options when purchasing a car or when making business decisions, a good foundation in finance helps guide your decision making.”

Hilscher and other professors working in economics at Davis are currently promoting the UC Investments Academy, a program that is free to all students that promotes careers in the financial and economic world. Interested students are offered countless opportunities and resources to enter the financial field, as well as gain exposure to many already working within it. 

There are a great deal of opportunities and resources available for students who are interested in learning more about their financial futures. Professors, both here at Davis and all across the country, would strongly recommend that students invest time in learning about one of the most crucial facets of their adult lives. 

Ultimately, the idea behind this advocacy is to remember that it’s never too early to start planning ahead and educating yourself about these concepts before they’ve caught up to you. 


Written by: Zoey Mortazavi — features@theaggie.org


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