Our View: Financial literacy should be part of the educational process




At first blush, it seems like an oxymoron, but anyone who has experienced poverty for any significant amount of time will tell you: It's pretty expensive to be poor. 


In ways too numerous to count, the burden of poverty if often compounded by such things as poor credit, lack of savings, crushing debt, limited access to affordable goods and services. 


The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 15 percent of Americans live in poverty, but as many as half of all Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and are just one unexpected financial crisis away from insolvency. 


So, while the cost of poverty is indeed high, the perils are not limited simply to those who fit the criteria of being poor. It can happen to most of us. 


That is a message that our young people, especially, need to hear. And yet, financial literacy is something rarely taught in our schools. 


That is why we applaud efforts at Mississippi State to inform and educate its students on the subject -- especially where student debt is concerned -- through new efforts including a new financial literacy coordinator and a campaign. Studies show the average graduate in the U.S. leaves college with about $30,000 in student loan debts. In Mississippi, the average is $23,250, which is probably more of function of lower costs in the state compared to the national average than wise choices students. 


While student-loan debt (estimated at a total of $1.2 trillion nationally) is emerging as a national issue, it will probably take years for reforms to be implemented and, even then, it is unlikely that the costs of an education will decrease dramatically. 


The best strategy, then, is to make sure students are aware of ways to minimize that debt. To that end, MSU's Department of Financial Aid has hired John Daniels to fill a new position - Financial Literacy Coordinator. The university has also launched a financial literacy program to help students discover ways to manage their debt. 


The program will not focus exclusively on education costs, either. The program will provide information on other financial issues, especially understanding how to attain, build and use credit. 


We applaud the university's efforts to inform, educate and assist students in learning these vital skills. The results will not only enable them to leave college with as little debt as possible, but provide the groundwork for financial security throughout their lives. 


While this move by the university is undoubtedly a good one, financial literacy is something that should start earlier. Unfortunately parents aren't always in a position to pass on money management skills. We hope area high schools will take note and help equip students to make sound financial decisions before taking on student debt.



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