Amy Willard had a few requirements when looking for a financial literacy program.
'I was looking for a free online financial literacy tool that also focused on professional development to prepare students for life after college,' Willard explains. 'We started with CashCourse about three years ago. I initiated it through my department, the Office of Personal and Career Development.'
Willard, an assistant director and career coach in her office, has done an excellent job creating partnerships with other departments on campus. Currently, CashCourse is used by Wake Forest's financial aid office, the divinity school, and in a professional and life skills course. In fact, the overall winner of the 2015 CashCourse My Story essay contest was Wake Forest Divinity School student, Monica Banks.
The Office of Personal and Career Development focuses their programming during National Financial Literacy Month, so each April is packed with events.
'The first year we celebrated National Financial Literacy month by doing a CashCourse scavenger hunt. For the final question, students had to physically find our office to get entered into the raffle after completing the scavenger hunt.' Willard says, 'The next year, we just wanted to have students register for CashCourse to be entered into the raffle. We also led a live Twitter chat about financial literacy with a financial aid counselor. Both of these efforts had mixed results.'
Not being totally satisfied with these outcomes, Willard and team considered other ways to engage students. The importance of financial literacy on a student’s overall well-being was not lost on her department.
'Financial literacy is especially important for college students because it sets them up for the rest of their life. So many problems come from financial strain, so if you can manage your budget and money, that greatly reduces financial stress which affects many aspects of one's life,' Willard explains.
For this past April, they introduced a key incentive: free Chipotle.
'This year, we wanted to get students to go beyond registering and start actually engaging with the site,' Willard says. 'We did weekly contests with the CashCourse quizzes called 'Lunch on Us.' If students completed a quiz then they were entered in for a raffle for a Chipotle gift card.'
The web traffic shows this was a successful outreach. They had 436 students visit the site during the month of April.
'My biggest advice to other schools using CashCourse is definitely to provide an incentive to entice students. We found Chipotle to be a great persuader. I also recommend partnering with other offices and departments to help champion it as a resource,' Willard advises.
Student feedback was overwhelmingly popular. Willard notes that the biggest challenge was engaging students initially as they tended to like the materials once they were there.
One Wake Forest student commented, 'After using CashCourse, I feel like I appreciate more that 401(k) plan looks toward long-term goals, and even though I felt like I was losing unnecessary money, it was actually helpful to look towards things that feel far away, like retirement.'
Willard stressed they were trying to learn the most effective way to engage students with important financial education.
'We are adapting each year and trying to find the programming or event that will most engage students. It has been a work in progress and we hope to expand beyond National Financial Literacy Month!'