Salem State unveils financial literacy program for students

According to Salem State University student trustee Angel Donahue-Rodriguez ’12, “Financial literacy has become an enormous problem for the next generation as well as for many of those in the GenX and baby boomer decades who are struggling with the results of the economic meltdown of 2008.” An incomplete understanding of basic financial principles caused many Americans to enter into risky endeavors they didn’t fully understand over the last decade. The consequences for many were economically devastating. Donahue-Rodriguez, with the support of the Salem State University Board of Trustees and the administration, is committed to providing his fellow students with the information they need to prevent that in the future—making Salem State one of only two state universities in the Commonwealth doing so.

The topics of the programs, which launch on February 23 and will be offered at 8 am and again at 9:15 am, will be up to the professors teaching them, but will likely include subject matter that includes balancing budgets, the importance of maintaining good credit, managing debt and credit, applying for loans, and saving and investing . Donahue-Rodriguez is being assisted in the program’s development by Dr. Dorothy Siden, chair of the economics department, and the Center for Economic Education at Salem State University. The university’s student government association has contributed $3,500 to the effort, and Chartwell’s food service is providing refreshments. Additional sessions will be held on March 9 and 23 and April 6 and 13.

Donahue-Rodriguez, the student representative on Salem State University’s board of trustees, wants to see his generation—and those that follow—better equipped and better prepared to cope with the financial twists and turns of a volatile economy than those who preceded them. His solution is to make a series of financial literacy programs available to every student in the university’s undergraduate and graduate population. Students completing the program will receive a certificate of completion.

Fellow trustee Wayne Gates, vice president of market research and development at John Hancock, believes Donahue-Rodriquez has identified a “desperate need” among today’s college students. Without financial literacy training, he says, our nation’s graduates will feel incredible pressure both in the work place and in their personal lives. “People without these skills,” he notes, “tend to simplify important financial decisions that are not at all simple. Without the appropriate knowledge, their decisions on spending, borrowing and investing are often spur-of-the-moment and based on emotion rather than fact.” With the changes in social security and employer-based pensions that loom in the future, says Gates, individuals are going to have to take greater responsibility, whether they want to or not. Salem State students who participate in the new financial literacy program will be among those equipped to do so.

As Donahue-Rodriguez sees it, “We have an obligation to be proactive and to make sure that what got our country into the recession of 2008 does not happen again. By graduating students who have the requisite skills and knowledge about finance to make informed and effective decisions both now and in post-graduation, Salem State prepares them for the economic challenges they are likely to face in the future.”