An Associated Students of Madison committee hosted a Financial Literacy Town Hall Wednesday to explore campus options for students seeking financial advising.
Mary Prunty, an ASM intern, said the University Affairs Committee meeting was an effort to talk with representatives from the University of Wisconsin Office of Financial Aid, Summit Credit Union, Working Class Student Union and the School of Human Ecology to brainstorm strategies and generate feedback to inform initiatives for ASM to take on to increase financial literacy.
Chris Smith, branch manager of the Summit Credit Union, said he believes everyone can be financially successful, but student financial awareness is low. They are unaware of basic banking, he said, and do not have the know-how to balance social with work life.
“Awareness is a big factor [in financial success and readiness],” he said.
Michelle Curtis, assistant director of services for the Office of Financial Aid, said gaining student awareness and implementing a plan for student financial assistance is a campus-wide issue, and said she feels it is important to get faculty and student organizations involved.
Resources are available on campus to educate students in personal finance, Smith said, such as workshops provided by the UW Credit Union and other online education tools that are not for class credit. He said the UW Alumni Association also puts on seminars covering budgeting, credit basics and student loans.
Smith also said online banking options are available to enable and track students’ expenses to show where they are spending the most money, but many students do not know this. Students also need assistance with making financial decisions, he said, including housing, utilities and their relations to credit history.
“When utilities are in your name and not maintained properly, [students need to learn] what is the cost to your credit in the future”? he said.
Michael Collins, professor of personal finance in the School of Human Ecology, said the personal finance course is offered for three credits, but has very limited enrollment. He added that University Health Services, the athletics program and university housing have been involved with raising student financial aid in the past and may decide to support the cause again.
Curtis added 10 financial counselors are available by appointment for students and their families at the Office of Student of Financial Aid, located on the ninth floor of the Student Activity Center.
While resources are available, Smith said student turnout is low. He said the question needing to be addressed is how to get students to know and want to utilize the resources available to them.
It requires a change in perspective, he said, shifting the perception from financing being viewed not negatively, but responsibly. Making budgeting a part of students’ daily routines is key, Smith said.
A way to make this happen could include developing a more personal relationship between students and counselors, as proposed by Cathy Kong of the Working Class Student Union at the meeting.
Prunty said dedicating the month of April as financial literacy month might help in generating student attention.
“[We need to] advertise that students don’t know what’s going on as well as they should,” she said.
Prunty said the University Affairs Committee will hold future meetings and students are welcome to attend. They are looking to do more this spring, she said.