College students need basic personal finance skills

by | Dec 12, 2018 | Biz/Tech

Madeline Jafernajad
BizTech Reporter

College is the time in a person’s life when they start to learn how to manage money.

Rob Brown author of Wealthing Like Rabbits, spoke to audiences earlier this month about financial literacy in a series of IGNITE sponsored events at Humber’s campuses.

Debt management and how to save money were topics Brown discussed in his book and during his talks with college students.

Brown’s book takes a comedic approach to managing money and is targeted at a young adult audience who otherwise may not be interested in the topic.

Carolyn Fallis, Business Administration Program Coordinator at George Brown College, said the need for students to have financial skills is growing more and more every year.

“Post-secondary has ballooned in cost and living expenses are outrageous,” Fallis said. “We know that post-secondary education is a huge expense. There’s a cost to everything and you need financial skills when it comes to budgeting for each semester.”

Some students receive thousands of dollars a year from resources like the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) yet most have never been taught how to manage that kind of money.

“In many cases it’s the first time where they are on their own,” she said. “Even if they are living at home, they are taking a step into the adult world.”

Whether it’s taking the bus, buying a coffee or paying for tuition, college students are expected to pay for things all on their own. But when it comes to education, English and math are seen as the basic skills that every person needs.

However, some would argue that financial literacy is just as important as English and math.

“I would be a big proponent for financial literacy to be incorporated into orientation at the post-secondary level,” Fallis said.

At Humber, each student is required to take English and a General Elective each semester, yet there is no general requirement of taking a course on financial skills. This is the same for almost all Ontario colleges.

“Students should lobby to have a foundations course in personal finance,” said Maria Racanelli, Business Administration Program Coordinator at Humber. “The business school could look into it.”

Debt is a huge problem for almost all students attending post-secondary institutions.

Most end up paying off their tuition years after they complete their education.

“There’s a reason why Canada has one of the highest [levels of] debt per capita,” Racanelli said. “For every dollar we make we owe [about] $1.68.”

Cat McGregor, a 30-year-old college graduate, said she spent years paying off her loans from school.

“I wish we had a financial literacy course back then,” McGregor said. “It probably would’ve prevented me from being in all that debt.”