Scripps Personal Finance Class Basis for New Financial Literacy Program

By Ina Herlihy '14News Editor

A personal financial literacy program will be coming to Scripps College in the fall. Ina Herlihy (‘14) and Maddie Ripley (‘14) are forming the program in consultation with Scripps’s Financial Aid Director David Levy and Economics Professor Sean Flynn, as well as Pitzer’s Financial Aid Director Margaret Carothers.

“I became interested in promoting financial literacy as a result of talking with lots of students over the years in financial aid who didn’t understand how to use a checking account, how to budget their money so they could manage their expenses or how to use a credit card wisely,” said Carothers. “A financial literacy program can help students develop important financial skills they can use throughout their life.”

The program will consist of monthly workshops on personal finance topics including personal budgeting, saving & investing, student loans and credit cards. The program will also have Money Wise Women Mentors (MWWM) to educate students by holding office hours in dorms every two weeks.

“The dorm office hours will be a casual environment for students to ask their peers questions,” said Ripley.

Carothers and Levy submitted a proposal to the Scripps College Fund for Innovation and Sustainability in order to make their vision of a personal financial literacy program financially feasible. The funding money will cover costs ranging from publicity materials, flash drives and refreshments.

The average debt of a Scripps student by the time she graduates, according to the funding proposal, is over $11,000. Seventy-six percent of college students desire assistance planning for their financial future, while 24 percent of students claim to be fully prepared for the financial responsibilities after graduation, according to a study referenced in the proposal and published in the Hartford Journal’s February 2007 issue.

Ripley asked students about their interest in the program when the Scripps Student Investment Fund hosted tea.

“I was shocked at the initial amount of interest students expressed in this program,” said Ripley. “Every student we spoke with had some question or some area of financial insecurity. I hope that this program will change that.”

Students have also expressed an interest in financial literacy with the selection of their classes.

“The first time it was offered, hundreds of students from the 5Cs applied to be in Professor Dillon’s personal finance class, and then it had to be restricted to only senior Scripps students because too many people wanted to take the class,” said Flynn.

Tess Sadowsky (‘11), currently enrolled in Dillon’s class, expressed a wish that more students could benefit from taking it.

“It [offers] an invaluable lesson,” said Sadowsky, who is also the founder of the Claremont Colleges’ chapter of MoneyThink, an organization which teaches financial literacy to high school students. “I wish it was a required course for everyone. Finance has become an indecipherable code that no one can make sense of. The class demystifies the language. It is a language. If you don’t practice it, you won’t understand what is going on. You wouldn’t throw someone into Russia without teaching them the language. Too often that’s what happens to students. They go out into the world without learning this new language. That is how people get into massive debt.”

Since Dillon’s class is capped at 25 students, the personal financial literacy program and the MWWM will expand the understanding of personal finances to a larger number of students.

Already working to help facilitate financial awareness, Scripps has subscribed to portions of a website which offers students detailed personal finance mini lessons. USA Funds Life Skills, the provider of these mini lessons, has been praised as a useful tool for addressing students’ financial concerns.

“The website offers comprehensive lessons about specific financial topics, some of which will be covered in the workshops,” said Ripley. “It is a great resource for students to have their financial questions answered, who cannot necessarily come to the workshops.”

“The USA Funds Life Skills course has been available for several years,” said Carothers. “In the last 18 months or so, with the transition to Federal Direct Lending, USA Funds has made a significant effort to expand the reach of the Life Skills course. David and I, along with Sean Flynn, reviewed the program and decided that it was a good beginning for a program at Scripps.”

The creators of the College’s financial literacy program plan to expand it to the 5C community after first establishing it at Scripps. “My hope is that this program will take root at Scripps and grow over the next few years into a useful, effective program assisting students not only from Scripps but from the other Claremont Colleges,” said Carothers.

Students interested in applying to be mentors for the program are urged to apply. MWWM applications can be found at the Student Union and the Scripps student updates page and are due on April 15 to mwwm@scrippscollege.edu.