About two-thirds of undergraduate students are in debt with an average of $24,000 in outstanding student loans. In 2010, 17.4% of Oswego residents were living at or below the poverty level. It is common in today’s society for people to incur some debt, but many are finding it much harder to get out of debt than it was to get in to it. It is necessary for people of all ages to be financially literate so they are able to make better financial decisions.
Our SUNY Oswego SIFE team started a program call Money Smart a few years ago and it is our goal to teach Oswego residents and students how to better manage their finances by teaching them proper financial management skills. Almost everyone is forced to make financial decisions to survive in the world today, yet many lack an understanding of what is really happening when they swipe their credit card or take out student loans. With the amount of people living in poverty in Oswego, and with so many students taking out student loans and building up credit card debt, it is essential for people to learn proper financial management skills, for the sake of their bank accounts and credit card score. SIFE teamed up with the local Pathfinder Bank to help implement the FDIC’s Money Smart program, in the local Oswego community. Pathfinder Bank was founded in Oswego over 150 years ago and has 8 branches in Upstate New York. This was the third annual SIFE sponsored Money Smart program and was the first year the seminars were held on the SUNY Oswego campus instead of in the town. By providing financial literacy education, we are teaching people to be proactive rather than reactive about their finances.
The Money Smart program was advertised in the community and campus. One SIFE member and one Pathfinder Bank representative worked together to teach the seminars. There were a total of five individual seminars held this year, with each one covering a different financial topic. Topics ranged from credit card debt consolidation to the basics of student loans.
Overall, we had a total of 101 attendees, with 10 community members attending all 5 sessions. In order to track the success of the Money Smart program, we handed out an evaluation survey at the end of each seminar for all attendees to answer. As you can see, over 90% of participants said that they would recommend this course to others, that they will be to use the skills they learned today in their life and that they learned something new today.
Hearing about the success of the Money Smart program, the Oswego High School asked Pathfinder Bank and SIFE to teach the Money Smart seminars for their juniors and seniors. We taught the seminars at the Oswego High School over the course of two days and focused primarily on Credit Cards and Budgeting. There was an attendance of over 500 students and we taught 7 classes a day.
Also, financial literacy materials, created by our SIFE team, with the purpose of educating on finance, have been used by Pathfinder Bank to educate those at both Cayuga Community College and Sandy Creek High School.
We plan to expand our reach by continuing our partnership with Pathfinder Bank and not just educating the college population who may already be in debt, but instead, catching the problem early by educating more high school students, not just the ones in our community.