U of M offering incoming students advice on financial literacyby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — In the past, money management advice has come strictly from parents, but colleges are now offering students financial advice as well.
College freshmen should be feeling a new sense of freedom right about now. In recent weeks they've left home and moved into college dorms. For many it's the first time they've had to take care of their own finances.
The most pressing concern for college freshmen this time of year is getting settled into their new home.
At the University of Minnesota, all 5,400 incoming freshmen are required to attend a session on money management this week. University officials promise it won't be a sermon advocating a vow of poverty for students, but rather a fun presentation featuring financial advice from older students.
One of those students is freshman Calie Lakin, 18, from Rochester. Calie's parents were on hand to help with the big move.
But once she's settled, they'll head back to Rochester, leaving Calie to take care of herself. One of Lakin's new responsibilities is to handle her finances.
Calie's mom, Jan Lakin, said they'll help their daughter financially, if necessary, but otherwise she's on her own.
"We'll support her and help her, but ultimately it's her education, it's her life, it's her responsibility in the end," Jan Lakin said.
Calie's parents warned their daughter about the financial hazards of plunking down credit cards for shopping trips and meals out with friends. The family developed a budget in hopes of keeping college-bound Calie from finding herself in financial trouble.
Sending students off to college with sound financial advice has been the sole responsibility of parents in the past, but now colleges are offering up financial guidance too.
Carrie Otto works in the student services office at the U of M. Otto said they want freshmen, especially those financing their education with student loans, to focus first on paying for the essentials like books and tuition.
"[We] hope to get them to understand that they don't want to take out more [student loans] than they really do need, for things like iPods or the greatest cell phone, or a brand new car," Otto said. "Whatever it is, understanding that they don't want to take on more student loan debt to cover those things that they really don't need right now."
Otto said the poor economy means students are paying closer attention to their finances and seem more open to advice on money management from their parents and from their college.
Standing on the lawn of her new dorm at the University of Minnesota, 18-year old freshman Emily Salbert said being cautious with money is a message her parents have sent loud and clear.
"How much we can spend on the weekends, and that kind of stuff and gas money driving home; we definitely talked about it," Salbert said.
Emily's mom, Wanda Salbert, said this is a particularly challenging time for the family. Not only is their daughter off to college, but Wanda just lost her job at a printing company in St. Cloud.
"I think we're cutting it close this year," Wanda Salbert said. "We really looked at what do we need and what do we have. If we're short just a little bit we can come up with it somehow. We really did try to keep as close to what we would need and take as little as possible from loans."
Wanda Salbert said some of the best advice her daughter got came from college financial aid officials. Live like a frugal college student now, so you're not forced to live like a broke college student once you graduate.
- Morning Edition, 09/04/2009, 6:45 a.m.