Day 6: Stark Contrast

In an earlier blog post, I quoted one of our speakers that success is the management of our failures. Today, I took that theory to test. Our day was first started with an Idea Morning session hosted by one of our own participants, Jason D’Mello. We were talked to by Ann from the Stored Potential Project which involved hanging mural banners from an abandoned grain silo in Omaha to bring art into the Omaha community.

During today’s project phase I ventured out to Creighton University to talk with students. I talked with one of our on-train reporters, Robert Reid from National Geographic, about a new approach to engaging with students. I hit a 100% success rate with talking to students and had very open conversations with students. I talked with one student who was working at the school coffee shop and learned the financial difficulties of pursuing a graduate degree. Our 20 minute conversation together lead him to offering me a free cup of coffee! (Now since I am from Minnesota it comes as no surprise that the Midwest is full of genuine and giving people.)

I also talked to an individual who worked at the school’s help desk. He was drinking out of a University of Minnesota water bottle so I was immediately intrigued. I began asking questions about where in Minnesota he was from and our conversation lead to the discovery that his family friend is my sister’s best friend! It was quite evident from this encounter that we all are truly connected in some way or another. Overall the students I talked to knew very little about their personal finances and were embarrassed to admit that, but what I found was that the further along students were in their educational path the more in tune they were with their finances.

One interesting conversation I had today was with a branch manager of a local credit union who has a branch located on campus. We had an insightful conversation about what students come to the credit union for most and what the credit union does for its students. He said that they hold a seminar for students about finances when it gets close to graduation time but they don’t see a turnout that makes having the event be worth throwing. I was reaffirmed by this when I asked students about said events, and the general response was that if it wasn’t mandatory then they wouldn’t go. The interesting thing about this is that they went on to say that they would like to have a financial literacy-type class as a mandatory part of the high school/college curriculum. One piece of our conversation that really frustrated me, as well as the credit union manager, was that US Bank provides plastic cards for Creighton University’s student ID’s so they get students to sign up for a US Bank account. The ironic thing about this is that US Bank has no physical presence on campus yet they are able to encompass all of the students and get them to sign up for their account. They also link their student ID’s to their tuition bill which allows students to use their card for purchases. What they don’t explicitly say is that they are not serviced by Visa or MasterCard so they cannot make purchases outside of a school’s bookstore.

There is no easy answer to this issue as not everyone agrees with where the responsibility lies for learning about managing one’s personal finances. But this is why I am out here, to give recommendations and product/consulting ideas for universities and financial institutions to help students. The majority of a student’s upbringing is spent in a school, so why not utilize that time to inform and engage students so they can make smarter and more informed choices about their personal finances when the time comes. As there is the time value of money, there is also the time value of education. The money you invest now will be worth more in the future, just as the investment in financial education made now will return a higher yield of informed students in the future.

 

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