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Posted March 20, 2013

New and enhanced financial literacy courses developed to help students manage debt

It’s a message sent often but not always received: Financial decisions at 20 years old can have an impact 20 years later.

That cautionary statement is a cornerstone of Temple University’s renewed efforts to help students reduce and manage debt through a series of new and enhanced courses designed to foster their financial literacy.

“To create opportunities without roadblocks, we are redoubling our efforts to limit student debt levels,” said Temple President Neil D. Theobald. “The idea is to teach students how to make smart choices about budgeting, savings, and debt. Most of us learned these lessons the hard way in our 20s and 30s. The current economic reality does not allow for a real-life internship in budget literacy.”

The four financial literacy courses are designed to help students understand the complexities of college financing and to promote responsible budgeting. The courses explore topics such as taxes, savings, estate planning, major purchases, credit cards, interest rates and investments. Emphasis is also placed on managing student debt, as well as the impact of defaulting on loans.

A one-credit freshman seminar on financial literacy, taught by the Temple Bursar’s Office, will debut in the fall. Two other courses — “Inve$ting for the Future,” taught by finance Professor Jonathan A. Scott, and another class pending final approval — would fulfill the four-credit Quantitative Literacy requirement of the university’s General Education Program.

The “Inve$ting for the Future” course includes assignments to prepare a personal financial plan, build a diversified retirement portfolio and compute how much one would need to save per month to fund a Temple education beginning in 2040.

An existing course, “Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning,” targets sophomores and is a requirement of the General Business Studies Minor. Because these classes are designed for non-business majors, the Fox School of Business is developing a Financial Literacy Competency test for its students.

The courses are one outcome of a Temple financial literacy task force that has been developing campaigns to help inform students of important budgeting practices and other literacy tools.

“We want to be able to help students as much as possible and provide various tools to help in their future,” said David Glezerman, Temple assistant vice president and bursar. “Over and above the courses, we look at this effort as a value-added service that students deserve. Anything we can do to help, that’s what we’re here for.”

The financial literacy effort will include online and TUTV announcements promoting a new virtual student loan and money management center that is scheduled to roll out in April, financial literacy month.

The virtual tool will complement the university’s Money Matters website, which launched last spring. The site offers financial resources for students and their parents, including tips on navigating the financial aid process, paying for college and reducing indebtedness.

Also in April, university officials are planning to invite guest speakers to discuss decision-making when starting a new job, such as enrolling in health care and retirement plans, and finding funding for new business ventures. The task force is also discussing personal-finance workshops and one-on-one counseling sessions.

“Financial literacy is a complex yet fundamental life skill. To effectively manage money, college students must understand the reality of their purchases and investments,” Fox School of Business Dean M. Moshe Porat said. “In doing so, they can help secure their financial future and maximize the value of their degree.”

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