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Harvard Offers Financial Literacy Training

May 21, 2019

Financial advisors may soon be getting a much more educated clientele among first-time advice clients thanks to the rise of financial literacy education at U.S. schools and universities, including Harvard and Princeton, according to news reports.

Rising college debt as well as uncertainty about their students’ financial future is causing even elite schools to join the ranks of higher-education institutions offering personal finance training, the Wall Street Journal writes. Over the last decade, community colleges and state universities began offering such programs to meet student demand, the paper writes, citing the Financial Security Project at Boston College. And 19 states now require high schools to offer basic financial education, compared to 13 states in 2011, according to the Council for Economic Education, the Journal writes.

The Ivies are catching up. Princeton hosted its inaugural Financial Literacy Day earlier this month, in which advisors and alumni conducted lectures on budgeting and the use of credit cards while financial services representatives did demonstrations, according to the paper. Other Ivy League universities, including Cornell and Brown, have offered one-off workshops in recent years — but most economics departments have stayed away from personal finance, the Journal writes.

But in April, John Campbell, an economics professor at Harvard who teaches about asset pricing and consumer protection, taught a four-session Personal Finance workshop for undergraduates, covering areas such as debt, credit and retirement planning, according to the paper. Campbell and the school are discussing hosting the same program next year, he tells the Journal.

The classes have raised an eyebrow with at least one student, who tells the paper that the workshop wasn’t relevant to everyone. Despite Harvard enrolling more students from lower-income families than in the past, the workshop used $50,000 as the low end of a salary spectrum and included a discussion on preparing tax documents for domestic help, the Journal writes.

Campbell defends the decision, however.

“Realistically, a lot of students who graduate from Harvard will end up having some form of domestic help and will in the course of their careers make more than $50,000 a year,” Campbell tells the paper. “But we must make sure we don’t convey the expectation that this is going to be everybody.”

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the Wall Street Journal article cited in this story, click here.