07 Jul It Takes a Campus to Prevent a Default: Rallying the Troops to Promote Financial Education
By Carissa Uhlman, Inceptia Vice President of Student Success
In part one of this article, we discussed how to present your case for financial education and gain upper level support. Here, we look at the equally important task of gaining the support of your departmental colleagues, and how to keep them engaged.
Who: Self-interest gains the most interest
Human nature dictates that appealing to one’s self-interest is a powerful motivator. With this in mind, by helping other offices to see the benefits of promoting financial literacy, you’re likely to win over some enthusiastic ambassadors. Here are some suggested messages to motivate staff and faculty on your campus.
A robust financial education program could be the unique campus resource that sets your school apart from the rest. Work with your admissions team to provide them with program specifics such as how the program is administered, how many students have gone through the program, and the resources you provide. Make a brief survey available to prospective students that measures their level of financial literacy; it may help to drive home the value of the program, and be a factor in the decision making process. Admissions representatives also have the unique job of having the initial conversation about cost and career earnings; make sure your messages are simpatico.
If your financial education program calls for students to determine how they will pay for college (which it should), what their expected starting salary will be (per DOL statistics), and what they need to do to remain in good standing (think SAP and enrollment status), they will be one step up on Maslow’s hierarchy. Having those initial needs met should allow your students to better focus on goal-setting and academic planning. In turn, your advisors will jump for joy at the chance to form a developmental advising relationship with students. Additionally, training advisors to incorporate financial aid requirements into academic planning is a form of just-in-time counseling that further enforces the goals of your program, and strengthens the advisor-advisee connection.
Speaking of expected salaries, career advisors know all about gainful employment. Those who assist students in career planning are keenly aware of the unrealized correlation between student loan debt and expected earnings. How much easier would those conversations be if students had already completed this analysis themselves, through your financial education program, and had adjusted their borrowing and/or major accordingly? Your Career Services partners would be a powerful ally in reinforcing these concepts.
An ASA study links alumni giving to how well students feel their alma mater provided education regarding loans, debt management, and repayment options (2011). Additionally, with graduated borrowers buried under average debt loads of $29,400, most are too busy treading water to even begin to contemplate giving back to their schools (2013). It should not take great convincing for alumni officers to make the connection between a strong financial education program and strong alumni giving. They may help sponsor an event or workshop, and may even be able to solicit alumni guest speakers. Having former students, especially those within the financial field, carry your message to current students can be quite effective.
Knowing that student stress level and school abandonment are most often related to finances, you can make the argument that financial education contributes to a more focused and full classroom. As they are often the first to hear about a student’s intent, instructors should be encouraged to make referrals as necessary to ensure students can make informed decisions. Faculty in the economics and finance departments may be valuable resources to your program for content development, guest speakers, and to potentially integrate your program into the classroom.
These are just a few examples of how to gain buy-in; a myriad of other reasons can be found to champion departments to your cause. From the business office to records to student life, there is a common link to be found if you focus on what appeals to each.
Call to Action: Empower your ambassadors
Finally, once you have achieved widespread support, you must find ways to keep your team engaged and empowered to carry the message. Provide literature and advertising about your program so they can make student referrals; train appropriate staff and faculty on key financial education concepts that directly link to their job functions; partner with others to sponsor student events and workshops for increased participation. And always provide opportunities to join the movement.
Financial education should be a forum open to all. You may be surprised to find many who share your enthusiasm and passion, and are just waiting in the wings for someone to start the movement.