FINANCIAL LITERACY SPOTLIGHT: Menlo College Combines Personal Finance Coursework with Real-Life Application

Loans, Student Loans

Grading students on their financial know-how is bridging the gap between learning and applying financial skills to everyday life at Menlo

After the economy suffered a severe downturn during the financial crisis of 2008, financial literacy at schools and colleges became more important and climbed up to be at the top of educational priority lists. Colleges have a unique opportunity to play an influential role in how students interact with their money, especially as students near adulthood and approach the time in their lives where they’re going to start making tough financial decisions, from repaying their school loans to deciding what city to live in. Menlo College is embracing this opportunity to help students reach financial self-awareness and become productive members of the American economy.

Menlo’s Professor Donna works with its Center for Financial Literacy, which has impacted how students interact with their money. The institution decided to implement required coursework for the first and last years of a students’ college tenure, covering savings, loans, mortgages, stocks, bonds, budgeting, insurance, retirement planning, as well as home ownership.

“A good way to really engage students is to grade them on it,” said Professor Little. Knowing that they will be graded surely motivates students to at least learn the material but the real gap lies where students can actually take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to their real life. In each freshman’s first year, they are required to take a financial literacy course to learn the basics of credit cards, student loans, appreciation, and amortization. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a business major or not, you have to learn how interest rates works and how that can play into your real life.

In addition to taking classes some students have the opportunity to get involved with peer-mentoring local high school students on financial literacy with the “Learn and Invest for Tomorrow” (LIFT) program. This effort is spearheaded by Menlo’s partnership with the Sequoia Union High School District and Citi Bank to teach essential financial management skills to freshman at Menlo and underserved seniors from Woodside High School. The program has gained accolades from many local and national lawmakers, including Sen. Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo.

As students struggle to finance their educations and transition into careers, Menlo College is focused on helping students graduate with financial skills they will use the rest of their lives.