MDHE awarded grant to improve financial aid education

Missouri high schooler students are required to take the class before they graduate.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education will use a $10,000 grant to accelerate its efforts for “Smart about Spending," a personal finance course Missouri high school students are required to take before they graduate. The grant is from the Council for Economic Education.

To decrease the number of students defaulting on college loans, the MDHE mandated that high school students had to take a personal finance course before graduating. The course, known as “Smart about Spending,” teaches students a wide variety of information regarding money management, ranging from federal loans to credit cards to consumer protective laws.

In 1992, one-fourth of all Missouri college students with loans had to default on the money they borrowed, according to an MDHE news release. That number has been on a steady decline since then. In the most recent year on record, only 5.8 percent of all Missouri students had to default on their student loans, well below the national average.

"All of a sudden, a freshman in college may have $20,000 to manage and little or no experience in setting up a budget," MDHE Assistant Commissioner Leanne Cardwell said in the news release. "We're trying to put materials in the hands of high school teachers so students enter college prepared to be wise money managers."

Currently, 518 teachers across Missouri are responsible for teaching the personal finance class.

MDHE spokesperson Kathy Love said the department was very happy about the grant.

“The application process was a very detailed ordeal, but after we showed (the Council for Economic Education) that the results of a survey from earlier this year, which we had taken from Missouri high school teachers, warranted more money for the program, they agreed to grant us the money," Love said.

Love said that she believes the program is vital for any student about to enter college.

“We want to see them succeed in life, and it’s very hard for a person who’s just graduated to be successful with a big storm cloud of debt hanging over their head,” she said.

Nick Prewett, associate director of MU’s Student Financial Aid Office, feels that even though teaching students about personal finances in high can be beneficial, more could be done.

“Financial literacy really needs to start at an early age and many states have really adopted the strategy to start financial literacy education at the high school level,” Prewett said. “But a lot of students will come into our office still not knowing what a loan is or how they’re paying for school. So if you don’t know how these things work it can become a problem once you’ve graduated.”

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