I remember coming out of college with a degree in economics, working a few years, and then obtaining an MBA in finance. With that said, I was unable to create a personal budget and quickly went into big-time debt as a result of student loans, credit cards, renting an apartment in the city, etc. I often thought to myself while a student, I wonder why they don’t teach us anything about personal finance?
Perhaps it was beneath the Ph.D.’s in academia to lecture on a basic budget, personal income and expenses. Not anymore. Universities are looking at ways to help anxious students manage their personal financial affairs, in light of the staggering debt that weighs them, and our economy, down. On the surface, it seems paradoxical that community colleges and even high schools prepare their graduates better for the real world in terms of financial abilities than do the Ivy Leagues. Those with little debt are astute at managing it, while those with major debt have never been taught how.
Let’s take a look at who is teaching what. High school students who are looking to go to upper tier universities rarely have time among the plethora of AP classes to learn financial management. Similar scenario once they get to college. The light has been turned on, and universities are taking notice.
In April, Harvard University’s economics department for the first time led a Personal Finance workshop series for undergraduates. In May, Princeton students attended the university’s inaugural Financial Literacy Day, complete with T-shirts and consultations. While not strictly financial, Penn began a real-world course this semester on “How to be a Manager,” attempting to give students skills not otherwise learned in high school or college.
The genesis of financial learning was, and will be again, led by high schools. In the late 20th century, almost all students took a basic finance class, in addition to “shop,” “bachelor living,” and other courses that realized the vast majority of students will end their education at the high school level. Unlike today’s common core curriculum, where students are lied to that they all can become doctors or lawyers, and only have to read books with pictures to do so. The mathematics component of common core ensures that students will be able to associate the image of a Big Mac with pushing the correct button to total the order for them.
In other ways, Harvard is leading the pack in progressing toward our nation’s newly desired socialist society, which is perhaps synonymous with their new world order world view. The chart below will help you see why.
According to the student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, 49% of first-generation college students at Harvard said that their parents make less than $40,000 a year. More than 46% of legacy students said their households earn more than $500,000 annually. It is not serendipitous that the assumptions woven into the personal finance curriculum included a starting salary of $50,000, and how to best utilize the federal tax system for your future domestic help. In defense, John Y. Campbell, an economics professor at Harvard, replied, “We are aware that there is a range of economic backgrounds and expectations. But, it is still Harvard.”