Should Colleges Offer Financial Literacy 101?

You can take a class on just about anything these days.

Frostburg State University offers an honors seminar on the science of Harry Potter. Rutgers University allows students to take a course on Beyoncé. If you were deprived of climbing trees as a kid, you can make up for lost time at Cornell.

While these classes all sound fun and exciting, something tells me that students might benefit more if given the opportunity to enroll in a course dealing with financial literacy. 

Now don’t get me wrong: I simply cannot deny the brilliance and importance of Queen Bey, and students have a right to know this. But what most students seem to lack as they make the transition from high school to college is a clear, solid understanding and explanation of how money works. So why not offer a class that does so? 

Brooklyn College did just that when they offered a class to incoming freshman that focused on the power of compounding interest, credit scores, banking products, and the psychology of money. After it was all said and done, over ninety percent of those enrolled in the class wished that they had been offered a lesson on financial literacy earlier in their education.

Just how early can teaching about financial literacy begin? Forbes' Lauren Gensler explains that it can happen as early as age three:

Experts say you can start kids banking as early as ages three to five. They can already start to embrace routine and habits at this point. "The whole idea is getting set up with a regular savings habit," says Neale Godfrey, author of Money Doesn't Grow On Trees: A Parent's Guide To Raising Financially Responsible Children. "Remember when they're little we're starting to teach them all sorts of habits: Brush their teeth, get up on time, put their toys away. We save part of our money, that's a habit too.
But it can make sense to wait until they're a little older and have a meaningful amount to deposit, too. Especially if your bank requires them to keep a minimum amount to avoid fees. Plus, while "it's never too early," according to Lorraine Breffni, Director of Early Childhood at Nova Southeastern University, kids won't start to grasp all that comes with a bank account until age six.

Financial loans, credit cards, and debt are things that the majority of students will be facing before, during, and many years after graduation. While it would be nice for schools to offer classes that deal with these topics, educating students about financial literacy doesn't have to take place in just the classroom.

How does your credit union educate its young members on the importance of financial literacy? Let us know in the comments below!


DeAndre Upshaw is a former Young & Free Texas Spokester. He's a marketing professional living in Dallas and a Beyonce enthusiast. DeAndre is the host and executive producer of The State of Awesome. Follow him on Twitter and check out his personal website.