I’ll be the first to admit that countless college students have absolutely no concept of money. In my three years at USC, I’ve seen students act recklessly with their allowances from their parents. As someone who has juggled work and school since the first semester of my freshman year, I’m consistently appalled to see students who have never worked a paying job in their lives dropping other people’s money on lavish spring breaks and expensive nights out, while acting surprised that other students cannot afford to hang out with them.
That may be more of a lesson in ignorance than in money management, but nevertheless, increased information regarding personal finance is needed for students of all socioeconomic levels. However, students will still blow off a required money management class. Instead of forcing students to sit in boring lectures full of generic information that might or might not apply to them, USC should offer more personalized finance resources to students, allowing students to access the information and support they need when they need it.
In addition to basic money management, there is also the larger issue of student debt, which over 44 million borrowers in the United States face. The average U.S. college student in the graduating Class of 2016 left school with over $37,000 in debt. With students taking out loans amounting to thousands of dollars at as young as 17 years old, there undoubtedly is a need for resources to help these students figure out exactly what they’re getting into. This has rightfully caused many to call for required college courses in money management in order to teach students about fiscal responsibility. While this is undoubtedly an important lesson, a class isn’t the best format to present it in.
Instead of formal classes, USC could model resources on one of several existing formats. For example, the Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Government currently provide free legal aid to students. Students currently have access to free 30-minute legal consultation to ask their own specific questions. A similar system could work with financial assistance — USC could offer free financial advisers for students to make appointments with and discuss financial issues, such as the decision to work during the school year or take out a loan or budget creation.
In addition to in-person services, USC could also follow the example of the Career Center’s Online Resources page. The website hosts any piece of information a student could want regarding careers, all in one place. If I was forced to take a class on how to write a cover letter, I might forget the specifics or not even pay attention to begin with. However, if I’m in the middle of a cover letter that’s due the next day and get stuck on the intro, I can use the Career Center’s online resources to access specific recommendations.
Many students already complain about general education classes, and for many students — including myself — these classes are on the bottom of the totem pole of priorities. Of course, the same could be said about the financial advisers or online resources: students might just choose not to access them. However, at least the information is there if students need it.
And some students might not need any information on money management. USC boasts a diverse student body, and attempting to broadly categorize their financial knowledge to squeeze into a single course syllabus would be nearly impossible. Plenty of students at USC have experience with personal finance, have been working for years, pay their own bills or even help out their parents with finances. Putting them through a money management course would be unnecessary, and ironically, a waste of their time and money.
Staffing a resource center with financial advisers or peer mentors would allow students to get the financial help they need, when they need it, instead of wasting their tuition money on another class.
Erin Rode is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism and political science. “Point/Counterpoint” ran Wednesdays.