MU professor’s research amplifies how financial education helps reduce student loan stress

Researcher Lu Fan recommended students explore free financial counseling on campus and various introductory budgeting courses.

Lu Fan, an MU assistant professor of personal finance planning, found in a recent study that 55 percent of the respondents were worried about their student loans, while 30 percent reported receiving formal financial education from school and employees.

The study also showed that financial education, either formally from a school or informally from parents, is a significant factor that helps to reduce stress associated with paying student loans, as well as to reduce risky financial behaviors.

“It’s important to raise [student] awareness on risky behaviors, like carrying out debts will hurt their credit scores in the future when they really want to borrow money to buy a house or a car,” Fan said.

The Department of Personal Finance Planning offers a list of introductory personal finance courses taught by faculty members covering various basic financial topics with real-world application.

“In these courses, you not only learn about student loans, but also on things like how to pay off your credit card, how to keep track of your credit scores, how to save money to buy cars and mortgages,” Fan said. “Even things like how to manage portfolio [combination of financial assets such as stock, bonds and cash].”

One of the introductory personal finance courses offered in the upcoming spring semester is Financial Success (FINPLN 4483), a one-credit hour course designed for students from any major. It examines financial management issues needed in post-college years, including after-school budgeting and forms of insurance. The course is graded on the basis of pass or fail.

Fan said the personal finances courses, taught by assistant teaching professor Starla Ivey and associate professor Deanna Sharpe, and financial survival courses, taught by Jim Green, director of the Office of Financial Success, are helpful for students who are not finance majors.

When asked how students can seek out resources on campus to assist in other financial related issues, Fan also mentioned the Office for Financial Success. She said the professional financial counselors and student peers working there are willing to help solve these types of problems.

The service is free and covers a wide range of financial topics including student loans, credit building, tax planning and insurance, according to the office’s website.

Fan said there should be more promotion about the office.

“I’ve heard that the financial aid office has sent people to [us],” she said. “A lot of time, students have no idea where our office is.”

Freshman Grace Schulte said she is stressed about paying off her student loans.

“I know I have a lot of [loans] and it will take me a long time to pay off all of it,” Schulte said. “I haven’t paid any of the student loans yet, but I know I have taken some of them out.”

She said she didn’t know about the financial budgeting courses offered on campus, but she feels the need to take some of these courses before graduating.

Fan said if students can’t take a course, they are still sources available online that might be helpful for students to look at. For example, on the UM System website, there is a web page dedicated to topics associated with finance, including benefits, compensation, retirement and wellness. But most students, she said, have no awareness of budgeting.

“They should start [financial budgeting] as early as they can if they think it’s necessary,” Fan said. “If they do budgeting well, the [other] financial issues are far less likely get accelerated.”

Edited by Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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