College of William and Mary

'Every student, regardless of socioeconomic status, needs financial literacy training. Everybody in the country needs to have this knowledge.'

These are the words of Amy Sikes, assistant director of financial aid at the College of William and Mary. Sikes has been advocating for enhanced financial education programming on campus since her arrival in 2007. When the college's freshman orientation was expanded to a year-long support program, Sikes saw an opportunity for collaboration.

Sikes approached Lauren Garrett, the first year experience director, about incorporating CashCourse into the program. Garrett was equally enthusiastic about including a financial literacy component, and they chose to include it in the Tribe Guide, a to-do list for incoming freshman.

'CashCourse is a highly recommended section of our Tribe Guide,' Sikes explains. 'We picked three modules we thought would be most relevant and helpful to incoming students: Budgets, loans, and needs versus wants.'

This strategy has made CashCourse a popular resource at William and Mary. In June alone, they had more than 900 visitors to their college CashCourse site, and the strength of the collaboration between the financial aid office and the first year experience program play a large part in this success.

When asked for advice on implementing CashCourse, Sikes says, 'Partner with an organization that carries a lot of weight with your students. When orientation leaders (who freshman feel are very important to their existence) suggest something, they will follow through. I think our results speak for themselves on the power of finding the right partner.'

A higher education scholar herself, Sikes is writing her thesis on financial support for disadvantaged populations. She says that the format of CashCourse is particularly ideal for young people.

'I like that CashCourse is online and was written with the college-aged student in mind,' Sikes says. 'I wanted something that students would feel like they could just do in their dorm. A lot of similar programs are written for older populations and then pushed into a college setting. CashCourse is tailored for college students.'

'Some students are nervous and uncertain about participating in public financial literacy forums,' Sikes adds. 'Online avenues make the students more comfortable and help them realize that they don’t have to reveal personal information.'

Student feedback on CashCourse at William and Mary has been extremely positive. Sikes notes, 'We've even gotten some responses from parents asking if they can do the modules!'

July 2014