Are students at Lasell financially literate? Reply

Kayli Hertel – Features Editor

For sophomore Amber Cunha, there are not enough hours in a day. Like many students, Cunha is just another member of the circus life called college. She walks on a thin tightrope juggling classwork, friends, family, work, and everyday stressors.

Between being a criminal justice and legal studies double major while working two jobs, dealing with the burden of finances is just another part of Cunha’s to-do list.

“I have worked since I was 14 and can save (when I put my mind to it). I also took a personal finance class in high school so I know how to balance a checkbook, and choose a credit card,” said Cunha.

But for many others, finances do not come easily and are a pressure point.

“Money Matters on Campus” a report that surveyed 40,000 first-year college students from across the nation on finances, reported several interesting findings. According to their website, http://www.moneymattersoncampus.org, they found that the attitude of students towards finance is a very conflicted one:

•79.2 percent of those surveyed worry about debt

•40.5 percent of those surveyed “at least moderately agree” with the statement: “Students have to go into debt”

•60.2 percent of those surveyed “at least moderately agree” with the statement: “I like to own things to that impress people”

A significant number of those surveyed worry about debt, but a significant number indicated that spending habits are reliant on the thoughts of other people.

Brittany Baker the Student Financial Planning Coordinator at Lasell believes that the question of financial literacy is not clear-cut by any means.

“I think that students understand the importance of financial aid and being financially stable. But I do think some students still struggle with the basics like budgeting and understanding how different financial choices can impact their future,” said Baker.

SALT is a program on campus to help with student’s finances. SALT has a dual purpose. SALT’s first purpose is seen through the My Money 101 series on the website, which acts as an introduction to finance course complete with different topics including how to budget and choose credit cards. The second purpose is to assist in debt management, which is seen through the money coach portion of the website.

“Our office felt that students needed a tool to help them understand not only how to apply for financial aid and loans but also be able to understand everything else that comes along with being responsible for your own finances,” said Baker, the school’s representative of the program.

Baker sends all the emails regarding SALT and hosts the FYS and individualized sessions throughout the year. For many students, Cunha added, the program goes unused. Many, like Grace Derby, think the program is a scam.

“I’ve heard of it [SALT], but the emails that they were sending me seemed too much like spam and since I really never saw a Lasell College email endorsing it I more or less ignored it,” Derby said of emails SALT has sent.

Due to miscommunication, students miss out on all of the options SALT has to offer including how to finance a car, interview for a job, and use databases for jobs and scholarships. There are also professionals who are able to answer any questions by students for free.

For Hillary Brown a first year student in the fashion-merchandising program SALT acted as a debt management assistant. “I used [SALT] to look at how much I should be paying a month to pay off my loan, but I get the feel that aspect is more for when you are out of college and actually making loan payments,” she said.

Seniors and freshmen alike can benefit from taking the time to become financially literate through the program. But what about commuters and transfer students?

Student Alisa Sweet transferred to Lasell and now commutes from Maine. Sweet says she receives more money from the Financial Aid Office because she is a commuter but explains all the aspects involved in commuting.

“As a commuter, finances can and often are worse. You have to work to pay for rent, gas, food, other monthly bills, your car (because it is affected depending on your commute distance), parking and tolls,” said Sweet.

According to Michele Kosboth the Director of Student Financial Planning, there are several first generation college students who need to be savvy regarding finances.

“46 percent of our students are considered first generation college students, meaning their parents have no college level education. That tends to lead to less experience with the college process as a whole, and less experience specifically with financing a college education,” said Kosboth.

Sophomore Samantha Ramos is a member of that 46 percent. “I have truly learned how to be independent and be responsible when it comes to finances and spending money versus saving money.” So how can students become more financially literate?

According to Kosboth, paying attention to what’s going on financially makes all the difference. “The sooner students start taking ownership of [finances] and really start say ‘Hey, I want my life to be like this’ and working toward that goal, the better off they are going to be,” she said.

For more information on Financial Aid at Lasell contact Kosboth or Baker at finaid@lasell.edu. Or check out SALT’s website, http://www.saltmoney.org, for some tips and lessons on financial literacy.

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