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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    In shortchanged economy, personal finance course should be required for college students

    Forbes went public on Monday with new data reflecting a much higher unemployment rate than previously reported: 14.3 percent.

    That means that, more than ever, students can’t count on finding a job immediately after graduation, and student loan debt is still climbing.

    Students need to learn how to manage their finances while they’re still in college. Arizona’s general education curriculum was established to provide graduates with a foundation in the modernized liberal arts, but with today’s shaky employment prospects, college students don’t have the time — or the cash — previous generations had to become “well-rounded.”

    It’s time for universities to shake up their general education curriculum with courses like personal finance, to better equip students for the 21st century workplace.

    How many students even know what CDs, IRAs and 401(k)s are? As UA students, we may be student leaders, researchers and teaching assistants, but we’re novices when it comes to understanding how to manage our money and leverage the best options available.

    Take note that the baby boomer generation can’t afford to retire. Where will we be, fiscally, in 40 years? Social Security funds could be exhausted as soon as 2034, according to a Congressional Budget Office report, so don’t expect anyone to take care of you.

    “Even just a general accounting and finance class where you can learn the basics of both” would be helpful, said Elizabeth Towne, a sophomore accounting major. A business management class that explained the day-to-day fundamentals of businesses would be the best option for students, according to Towne.

    Since management has a broad focus, more students would be interested, Towne said.

    College marks a big step in financial maturity for students. Many students get their first jobs or pay taxes for the first time during their undergraduate years. With the ongoing fiscal crisis, no class can be more practical than one that focuses on understanding how to manage and understand accounting and financial information.

    Symantha Mallek, an elementary education junior, said she believes requiring a personal finances management class for a gen ed would be ideal. “Growing up with my parents, I was dependent upon them for [financial and tax-related] help,” Mallek said. “Now that I’m branching off on my own, it’s confusing.

    “In my career, there’s a lot to do with budgets. It’d be very, very helpful,” Mallek said. She said a course that teaches you how to budget, take care of your finances and develop your management skills would be the most helpful.

    Shruti Shah, a psychology sophomore, said she believes that a gen ed focusing on personal finance would help college students pay for their graduate school programs and manage their money.

    “A personal finance course is more relevant to all students because whether you’re on scholarship or not, you need to know how to manage your money,” Shah said.

    “Once I had started earning money while away at school, all I wanted to do was spend it,” Shah added. “However, I had to realize that at least half of this money needs to go toward paying back student loans.”

    Students are going to college to gain employable skills, but if they don’t know what to do with the money they earn, they’re going to end up struggling financially. We need to start planning our fiscal futures now.

    Just hoarding the money you make at your part-time, on-campus job won’t be enough to get you through grad school, let alone the unknown financial storm we’re all going to be sailing through. Now is the time for Arizona to lead the way by instituting a mandatory general education course focusing specifically on personal financial planning, including student loan options.

    — Stephanie Zawada is a chemistry and pre-business sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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