Administrators discuss lack of financial literacy advising

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As the Class of 2013 prepares to leave Stanford and enter the workforce, both University administrators and students have discussed a lack of sufficient advising in financial literacy for students.

While a recent report by America’s Promise Alliance suggests that such a lack of literacy could hinder students’ ability to take full advantage of financial aid, Director of Financial Aid Karen Cooper framed the issue as rare at Stanford.

“Where I see issues is how students manage the money they receive,” Cooper said, noting that financial literacy spans students’ experiences both before and after graduation.

While Cooper described Stanford students as representing the spectrum of financial literacy, Mary Morrison, a student services administrator in the Financial Aid Office, started a course in response to a perceived deficit in student awareness.

“There were a certain number of students at Stanford who didn’t know much about how to handle money or the basics of finances,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s course — MS&E 41: Financial Literacy — is aimed at seniors and other students preparing to fully manage their own finances, teaching them fundamentals such as types of insurance, retirement plans and financial vocabulary. According to Morrison, the class has been fully enrolled at around 110 students for the past 14 years.

“I don’t think we, Stanford, have a lot of things in place for dealing with the financial literacy around being a student” Cooper acknowledged.

Jesús Salas ‘13, a student business advisor at the Career Development Center (CDC), shared a similar perception of a lack of University resources.

“I think Stanford assumes because people are as intelligent as they presume that they would figure everything out … but we should have some shaping around what that means to be financially literate,” Salas said.

Salas recently helped organized an event with the CDC that dealt with preparing students for life after Stanford. The event featured a 50-minute talk that covered the basics of finances, an effort similar to Morrison’s financial literacy class.

Cooper and Morrison agreed that more opportunities for financial literacy education would be advantageous for students. Morrison suggested a series of seminars to guide freshmen through the undergraduate experience while Cooper advocated the formation of a student group and the encouragement of greater peer mentoring.

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