First year students still lack financial experience in FYE
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 23:09
The university’s First Year Experience program is an incredibly noble idea because it brings bewildered freshmen together for a common purpose. However, an idea does not always transpose as well in its application. If it were not for writing this article, my time in FYE would be a faint memory. As a first-generation college student, I craved direction and advice during my first weeks at the university. I assumed FYE would give me that.
Unfortunately, it did not give me the financial direction I was looking for. Class time was filled with trivial conversations. Voices bellowed out empty thoughts about a common reader book less than half of the class read. A brilliant professor or seasoned peer mentor stands in the front of the room and orchestrates a class that leaves little to behold.
As a senior, I look back and realize FYE had true potential, and all it needs is a new direction. We should skip the small talk about how to get along with your roommate, how the bus system works and how to study hard, drink your milk and eat your vitamins. What freshmen need, and what I wish I had, was someone to tell me how to handle something that is going to affect me for the rest of my life: the cost of college. Loan debt, tuition, scholarships and financial literacy are all realistic and weighty problems students do not regard until, well, they reach my age.
I recently met with Congressman John Carney (D-Del.) to discuss the rising problem of student loan debt. As an aspiring law student, I am not good with numbers, so I had few suggestions on how to lower the debt ceiling from an economic perspective. Instead my suggestions came from a more honest place—a personal perspective.
Even as an in-state student with scholarships, I’m looking at hefty student loan debt, just like many other students here. Some are fortunate enough to have their parents pay everything off, but those already living in the real world don’t have that luxury. Instead of allowing students to go four years without considering their loans and finances, why not have FYE focus more on teaching students how the process will work? Many of us will be dealing with these loans alone, fresh out of graduation. Instead of wasting a professor’s potential by conducting a fairly low-stimulating academic experience, the university could hire a financial advisor to conduct information sessions and explain how student loans will affect these freshmen in the coming years.
I realize personal finances can be somewhat of a taboo subject in our society. However, my idea does not involve a personalized consultation where the student sits down with their W-2s and allows a stranger into the inner workings of the student’s family life. I’m thinking of a general introduction to the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, what a parent plus loan is, how merit based scholarships can be earned, investing in stocks and so on. Our esteemed university may have taken initiative to a similar idea already. It offers financial literacy classes, but these classes are not mandatory. Peer mentors struggle to find a definitive slot for this class, and they only want to help. Let’s allow them to help.
If teaching 18-year old young men and women about how to drink alcohol responsibly and conduct safe sex is part of the curriculum, then financial literacy should be as well. Alcohol, sex, drugs and social skills are usually taught by a young person’s family, parents or personal experience. But being prepared for inevitable dealings of student loan debt and future finances would also be an invaluable learning experience. This experience rarely comes from parents and especially not from parents who were unable to attend college and go through this financial process in the past.
The university should not assume we have a background in this field. It is only fair that we are given one. We pay for our education, and we should receive our money’s worth. Student loan debt can be a very real threat to a graduating senior. It may hold a graduating student back from reaching their full potential, not just as a prospective member of a working society, but in their human growth. Loan debt can be detrimental. The least our university can do is prepare us for the next challenge ahead, which begins as soon as we graduate. In this way, a prepared graduating student may look back at their First Year Experience and credit it for helping them feel the weight of their hard-earned degree in their hands, instead of thousands of dollars on their shoulders.