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Study Says College Graduates Lack Financial Skills

Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Updated: Saturday, August 9, 2008 23:08

A study conducted by the American Institutes for Research claims many college students graduate lacking adequate personal financing skills, as most are unable to read credit statements or balance a checkbook.

According to the report, the study is based on a sample of about 1,800 graduating students from 80 randomly selected 2-year and 4-year public and private colleges and universities from across the United States. The researchers found that 20 percent of American college students pursuing four-year degrees have only basic quantitative literacy skills.

"There is a problem that many college students don't know how to balance a checkbook and some other practical things that college students may not know how to do," said Jerell Blakeley, freshman political science major. "I know a lot of college graduates who don't know how to do these things and they have graduated from some of the most prestigious schools in America. I think that's a problem."

Students disagree about what role universities should play in the education of their graduates with life skills. Blakeley said he gained his knowledge of balancing a checkbook from reading outside of class. Other students believe that lessons of basic life skills are not the job of the university, yet lessons that should be taught at home.

"It's not something that you're supposed to learn while you're in college," said Bukola Oyekan, freshman film production major. "It's something that your parents are supposed to teach you at home before you even get to school."

Also, the university offers financial workshops throughout the year and most students must attend finance-oriented workshops during the first week of freshman year during orientation.

"I think Howard does a lot to educate its students," Oyekan said. "It's just up to the students whether or not they want to pay attention. Students our age don't really pay attention and their minds usually aren't in the right place."

J. Carleton Hayden, lecturer of history, says he has been deeply immersed in Howard student life since 1971. As a former student, chaplain, and now a lecturer, Hayden has been observant of student habits of the past and the present.

"In general, students are much more knowledgeable about financial matters because going to school now is different," Hayden said. "You have to be able to manage financial aid, you have to be able to find a job, you have to find ways to purchase your books-it takes more financial skills to succeed now than it used to."

Hayden also believes that financial prowess is more a psychological phenomena than merely possessing economic know-how.

"Many of our students are from lower middle class, middle middle class, and lower class economic situations," Hayden said. "I could imagine probably 25 percent of our student body is at or near the poverty line in terms of family income and they are thinking 'gee whiz, mom and dad are working hard to pay for my education and I want to be able to help'."

According to Hayden, however, those students who do not have the stress of financial burdens may not be as money conscious as others because their parents may be able to help them out more financially.

"Some people may not know how to do it because their parents handle their bank accounts for them," Krystian Ramolgan, sophomore film production major said. "If they don't have their own bank account and their parents do it for them, they will never learn."

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