Make Financial Literacy Part of Your School's Debt Management Plan

By Carol Buchli and Anne Fischer, USA Funds Consultants

It’s a great idea to establish a campus default prevention plan — regardless of whether your school is federally required to do so. And research shows that the number-one reason students leave school before getting their degrees is finances.

So establishing a debt management plan that includes financial literacy education is an important way to promote default prevention and student success at your school.

But how do you effectively include financial literacy and student success training in your debt management plans? How can you ensure that you’re spreading the message of sound financial management effectively and in a way that will spark that behavior among your students?

First, some good news. Students actually want to receive money management and student success information. Research has shown that the subjects students are most interested in include investing for the future, getting ahead financially after graduation, avoiding credit problems and budgeting.

And financial literacy education works. Here’s just one example: Nearly 94 percent of students reported  an intent to change a behavior as a result of taking a lesson in USA Funds®’ financial literacy and student success program, USA Funds Life Skills®.

Now, some not-so-good news. Simply creating opportunities for learning this valuable information and then hoping students will show up often doesn’t work. You need to develop financial literacy and student success training plans that include both solid information and incentives for your students to take part.

So where to start? More good news. You don’t have to go all-out when embarking on plans for financial literacy and student success training plans. In fact, starting small and then, in the future, building on your initial successes to create a broader plan is a better way to go.

Key considerations

Consider these overall questions about establishing financial literacy education at your school:

  • What is your main objective or goal for implementing a financial literacy initiative?
  • When would you like to have your program up and running?
  • Who are the key stakeholders that will be responsible for the program?
  • What is your budget for implementing and supporting the program?
  • What information do you want to present, and will you develop those lessons or use other, already-available materials?
  • How will you know that your goal has been accomplished?

Once you have ideas about those issues in mind, you can begin to establish specific initiatives for delivering your financial literacy and student success messages. As you craft those plans, remember our warning about just making the training available and hoping people will show up. Ultimately your goal should be to make the training a part of the student experience — with opportunities for learning throughout students’ time on campus and beyond.

Opportunities to educate

So link financial education to other, on-campus events, programs, student organizations or curriculum. And don’t be afraid to make it mandatory. Here are some ideas for effectively offering financial literacy and student success education:

  • Formal admissions process.
  • Freshman/transfer student orientation programs.
  • Supplemental entrance and exit counseling.
  • Residence hall programs.
  • Summer bridge programs for high school juniors and seniors.
  • Personal development classes.
  • Satisfactory academic progress appeals.
  • Student success programs.
  • Adult re-entry programs.
  • Programs to assist students on academic probation.
  • Partnerships with career services, student affairs, faculty and counseling staff.
  • Consumer education — building money management skills.

Measuring results

Just as you should with your overall default prevention plan, once you get your financial literacy program up and running, carefully measure its results.

Incorporate tests or challenge questions in your financial literacy training, survey students, or evaluate outcomes such as behaviors and default rates. Examine what worked — and didn't work; then, keep that information in mind as you adjust or expand your program.

If you need help with your default prevention plan or its financial literacy component, contact your USA Funds representative. USA Funds' website also offers information about USA Funds Life Skills and USA Funds' other debt management and default prevention tools.