The University of the District of Columbia Community College, thanks to funding from Guardian Insurance, has been able to design and provide a personal finance course offered at no cost to their students. Led by Albert Pearsall III, an assistant professor of business, the course focuses on financial literacy as an essential life skill.
“The course covers a range of topics,” Pearsall says. “We start off with establishing a general understanding of personal finance and then move onto money management skills. It is important that students understand why it is so important to manage your money and how it affects nearly every aspect of your life.”
Topics range from day-to-day spending decisions all the way to retirement discussions. The culminating project is the development of an individual personal finance plan. Students must present this plan at the end of the semester, and it continues to be a highlight of the course.
“I have been amazed at these presentations. For instance, I had a course of dual-enrolled students, and I was not sure I had really reached some of them,” Pearsall shares. “There was one girl in particular that seemed disengaged throughout the semester. However, her presentation revealed that she had been helping her father manage his money better from what she had learned in the course. I was floored.”
CashCourse and guest speakers help augment his teachings. Pearsall frequently pulls in guest speakers to talk on certain subjects in depth and assigns CashCourse activities for students to do before class.
“Between all of these lessons, I give them assignments through CashCourse. I point them to different activities and then we discuss the topic in class. Students’ feedback is that they have found the assignments to be very beneficial,” Pearsall says.
He has been marketing the course by connecting with campus academic advisors and making sure they know about the class. He also goes to student groups and talks about the benefits of the course. Despite the course being offered tuition free, it has been challenging for him to reach students who do not see the need for financial education.
Pearsall says, “Personal finance can be a challenge to sell to students because many come from an environment where it might not necessarily be taught or even respected. Many have parents with poor money management issues and it can be a real challenge to reach them.”
He believes this challenge could be mitigated if colleges and universities treated personal finance truly as a life skill and something that should be required for students.
“If this were a required course, and not treated as an elective that doesn’t carry much weight, I think we would see enormous benefits,” Pearsall says.
“I believe that those of us in this work need to encourage this change at the higher education level. It is important we share best practices and demonstrate how this has positively impacted students.”
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