Financial Literacy
“Grades” are how we measure progress, and on the subject of personal finance, students and schools have been coming up short. A recent study reveals that millennials need to worry about their financial grades, since the overwhelming majority have committed at least one major financial blunder: defaulting on a student loan, overspending on a credit card or having an account sent to collections.

On the other hand, another study reveals that college grads give schools a C in credit and debt education—and when asked how well their college or university taught them about credit scores, 20% of respondents actually gave their school an F.

But some organizations are answering the call to increase financial literacy, and they’re educating students at various stages of their academic career. For example, Regions Bank forged a partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham—the bank is based in Birmingham—to create the Regions Institute for Financial Education. The Institute is housed in UAB’s Collat School of Business and includes programs designed to help college students, employees, and the community.

One program presented by the Institute is the Money Math Camp. Stephanie Yates is an associate professor of Finance, and director and endowed professor of the Regions Institute for Financial Education. She tells GoodCall, “The Money Math Camp is a four-day academic program for middle schoolers and high school students that is designed to teach them basic life skills regarding budgeting, credit, banking, saving and investing.”

Yates says the camps were started to fill a void in financial education, and since 2015, more than 500 students have attended a Money Math Camp. “We believe it is never too early to start learning about money,” Yates says. The camps are hands-on: young students engage in role-playing and actually handle money, while older students learn more advanced money management skills.

In addition to the Money Math Camps, the Institute provides financial education for members of the UAB community. “We hold regular workshops for students, faculty and staff called Money Matters, where we cover a variety of personal finance topics,” Yates says. For example, she currently teaches a three-part series focused on women and money.

Other Money Matters workshops include:

  • Your Spending, Your Savings, Your Future
  • Risk and Protection
  • Family Money Skills
  • Dealing with Debt
  • Your Credit Report
  • Saving Through Tax Refunds
  • Five Keys to Investing Success
  • Protecting Yourself Against Targeted Fraud

Yates says there also is a special financial education workshop for all incoming freshmen students.

Gaining Early Awareness Undergraduate Programs (GEAR-UP) Alabama is a federally funded grant awarded to UAB’s School of Education in 2014. The $49 million grant is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to attend college. There’s a dire need for these types of services, as a recent report reveals that up to 40% of low-income college students never show up for class after they are accepted into college.

Veronique Zimmerman-Brown, PhD, GEAR-UP Alabama’s project director, tells GoodCall, “For 7 years, GEAR-UP Alabama services a cohort of around 9,500 students, currently in the 8th and 9th grade, from 21 school districts in the Alabama Black Belt Region.”

In addition to partnering with the Institute for the Money Math Camp, GEAR-UP Alabama also helps students and their families understand the financial aspects of pursuing a college degree, including how to apply for financial aid. “Other materials, services, and experiences, like ACT preparation books and online accounts, college tours, job shadowing, and college campus residential camps and classes, are provided to address specific needs,” Zimmerman-Brown explains.

She says GEAR-UP Alabama also has a professional development program to help high school teachers provide financial education to their students.