KPU Should Start Offering Courses on Personal Financing

Basic financial literacy rates in university are alarmingly low, but students have shown that they want to learn how to balance a budget

(Jessica Limoanco)

If you’re anything like me—or just over three quarters of university-aged individuals—personal finance is not your forté. Outside of some mental math once in a while, you likely don’t sit down to calculate your income and manage your expenses accordingly. You probably don’t know much about how the stock market works or investment strategy. Until much too recently,  I wasn’t even entirely sure about the difference between a chequing account and a savings account.

Writing for Maclean’s, Rosemary Counter discusses a study conducted in 2017 which found that, “although millennials are generally better educated and more skilled than their parents were at the same age, only 24 per cent have basic financial literacy (meaning an understanding of assets, expenses and income).”

Some universities are taking steps to educate the alarmingly low financially-literate populace. The University of Toronto has “Introduction to Personal Finance”, a newly offered 11-week course which is “open not just to business and finance majors but every other undergraduate student, too.” According to Counter’s article, enrolment has already tripled for the class, and 95 per cent of students taking it come from non-business backgrounds.

Maybe financial literacy is something we think about obtaining only after we’ve earned our degrees and started our careers, but university students have long been associated with money troubles and struggling to save. As KPU students, we’re living in the midst of a housing crisis with inadequate wages to compensate for the ever-inflating cost of living. Now tied with Toronto, Vancouver is the most expensive city to call home in Canada. Personal finance is not something we can afford to remain uninformed about.

It would be great if KPU offered even a few accessible money-related courses or programs, so that we could hit the ground running. After all, other Canadian universities are taking steps to combat the prominence of financial illiteracy.

“At the University of Waterloo, students are invited to apply for a position in two extracurricular clubs, the Student Investment Fund and the Student Venture Fund,” writes Counter. “Both offer hands-on training in portfolio and venture investment, with real money—beneath the watchful eyes of industry experts.”

Marc Bachand, a professor at the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, offers a massive open online course (MOOC) on personal finance. According to an article in Maclean’s, “The free, five-week online class covers personal finance, taxes and tax breaks, growing your personal wealth, and a (voluntary) final exam.”

As Counter’s article states, Bachand has carefully designed the program with accessibility in mind. “So far, 20,000 people have completed his course in three years. For comparison, the university has 14,000 students enrolled,” she writes.

There is abundant incentive for these courses to be offered, but as it currently stands, the majority of KPU students are on their own if they wish to get educated about money in any relevant way.

While I cope by daydreaming about my eventual escape from the pressures and confines of our late-stage capitalist society, about burning my credit cards and living off in the middle of the woods, I understand that, as a young citizen of Metro Vancouver, my knowledge of how money works will dictate my future livelihood. If our university played a more active role in educating us on personal finances, we could pave the way towards eliminating the link between being a student and being broke, and instead create new associations of being students and being informed about measures that will improve our lives.

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