Paul Gregg has taught personal finance to thousands of students at the University of Central Florida. Starting with two sections in 2002, word of mouth quickly grew that this was the elective to take if you wanted to learn how to improve your finances. He currently teaches about 500 students each term.
“Students who sign up for this course come from all colleges. Most are not business majors. I give talks at our open houses and orientations. These talks typically gets students very interested in the class. I also give a retirement talk to employees. I have personally met with first year student advisors, gotten them on board, and had them recommend the class. At this point, I don’t have to do much marketing,” Gregg explains.
Gregg joined UCF as an adjunct with a finance background. He became interested in financial education through his own work experiences.
Gregg explains, “My background includes being a senior audit manager at Price Waterhouse and then a CFO for CNG Producing Company. My background is in finance and that of a CFO, not as a CFP. I got interested in financial literacy because I saw that it was lacking even within my employee base. These were highly educated people who did not know as much as they should, and I thought universities were the place to fix this.”
Roughly half of UCF students will graduate debt free. Tuition is relatively low for the state of Florida and the scholarship program, Bright Futures, offers assistance to many students. Gregg notes many UCF students work during school to limit their borrowing. Although UCF students might be less burdened with student loan debt than peers at other institutions, they demonstrate a strong interest in personal finance. The course goes beyond day-to-day money management and highlights topics that interest students.
He says, “My students are mostly interested in student debt and investments in 401(k) plans. Those two things get a lot of people interested in the class. It is an elective class, so students are only there if they want to be there. I make the class reasonably difficult. I don’t water it down, and I give real-life problems.”
For each topic, Gregg shares resources that students can use for future reference. He uses CashCourse as an example for general money management.
“For each chapter, I show students a website they can use for future reference. The idea is to show them quality and trustworthy resources for future use. My objective is to show them as many websites as I can,” Gregg says. “CashCourse is one of the websites I take them to and have them answer some questions from the quizzes. CashCourse is great for general money management.”
Helping students vet resources for future reference empowers them to be self-advocates as they encounter topics covered in the class. Real-life examples are the backbone of Gregg’s curriculum and he pushes students to tackle time value problems they are likely to encounter.
Gregg says, “One thing I do that might be different is that I do introduce students to financial calculators (we use an HP 10BII+ [a financial calculator used in business]). They can work just about any time value of money financial problem. When we cover the car buying chapter, we talk about deals that advertise 0 percent financing or a cash rebate. That is a type of time value problem and we cover these heavily. For instance, if I save this much a month, how much would I have in x months? How long will my money last if I have X and take Y out each month assuming a Z return. I get into mortgage functions pretty heavily, so they can calculate mortgage and real estate problems.'
He has even partnered with Vanguard to help provide materials to the class that will assist them with a better understanding of investing. Having students walk through real life examples helps break down the intimidation factor of topics like mutual funds.
“I have Vanguard give us copies of a prospectus and an annual report on their S&P Index 500 fund. I have students interpret another mutual fund prospectus on the final exam. Is this a load or no-load fund? What are its fees? Did the fund beat its benchmark index?” Gregg explains.
Gregg would love to see this class offered on a wide scale but notes there would likely be pushback.
“The issue for universities is that this course is not traditional. Academics would agree that macro and micro economics should be taken for general education. It has been difficult to get this class into the core general education program,” Gregg says. “Some academics dismiss personal finance as balancing checkbooks and that it isn’t a classic education course. I would argue this is microeconomics for the individual.”