Madonna University

Madonna University’s financial literacy programming is a result of several cross-campus partnerships. Jim O’Neill, the associate vice president for curriculum and university accreditation, and Nicole Nagy, the director of the first year experience program, partnered their respective programs together to emphasize financial education in their students’ lives. They also work extensively with the director of student life at Madonna University. 

Their programming is embedded throughout the Madonna campus and features a few different approaches.

O’Neill explains, “There are four different components to our financial literacy programming. The biggest one is using CashCourse as a resource for students. The second component is an education piece for faculty and staff. We teach them the basics of financial literacy so they can assist students via advising. Our third component is Blackboard which is connected to CashCourse. We have student workers develop quizzes that relate to CashCourse topics. The fourth component consists of workshops and programming in general. The FYE uses CashCourse materials for handouts and draws from their workshop kits.”

The positioning of financial literacy at a student’s early stages in college is deliberate. First year experience programs are a great place to house personal finance lessons. 

“It is important to reach students early so they make good decisions and don’t dig themselves into a hole. They really need to know how their decisions affect them as a student. They aren’t learning things like loan decisions or credit in the classroom, so it is important to supplement,” Nagy says.

In addition to the four components, the student workers at Madonna developed videos for their peers on financial literacy topics. Using real student perspectives, they were able to create a resource that resonated with students.

O’Neill says, “We were selected as the CashCourse ‘Best Digital Program’ this past fall. For that programming, students developed videos that asked questions on financial literacy topics.  For instance, ‘Do you know what an interest rate is?’  They were also asked trivia questions about popular culture.  Students loved watching these videos, because so many of their peers didn’t know the answers about financial literacy, but knew all the answers about popular culture.”

Financial topics can still be very taboo even among peers. Nagy and O’Neill found this video helped lighten the mood and start conversations.

“That video, though simple, really opened up the conversation. It’s a sensitive, taboo topic and this really opened up people to have that talk. We opened a door that wasn’t open before and allowed parents and students were able to talk about it. We made it okay for them to talk about money,” Nagy explains.

They also incorporate student perspectives by having student leaders give presentations to their peers. Using student workers in this manner has also been very successful.

“I wasn’t even at our Affording College session for students and our student leaders did the presentation perfectly. I’ve just seen the feedback on how much the students loved the session and that shows me that they not only went over the information but that they did it in an engaging way,” Nagy explains. 

When asked on advice for other schools incorporating CashCourse, O’Neill stressed the importance of partnerships, not only for the additional resources and brain power, but to create opportunities to reach students at various points in their lives.

“For small institutions, it is very important to collaborate. You must realize that it isn’t just one department who has an interest in this. A student might have four identities; they might be an athlete, a research assistant, a member of student government, and in residence life. This makes for four avenues to reach them through faculty, staff and other students. Collaboration also helps with affording these programs. CashCourse has been indispensable because we don’t have marketing written into our budget. CashCourse has helped pay for that,” O’Neill explains.

March 2016