Stability, Well-being, and Independence—the Lifelong Benefits of Financial Education

Personal finance education is at the heart of the Champlain experience. Before our students graduate, they learn how to create and follow a budget, establish credit, manage debt, and invest their money.

At Champlain College, we pride ourselves in our human touch and practical approach to higher education. Our fundamental goal is to prepare our students to succeed in the real world. A key component to success in the real world, of course, is financial acumen—the ability to make smart decisions with money. That’s why personal finance education is at the heart of the Champlain experience. Before our students graduate, they learn how to create and follow a budget, establish credit, manage debt, and invest their money. We make sure all our students, including those who need this education the most, get it. That’s why our program is not optional—it’s required.

Jimena Huaco, Assistant Director of Champlain’s Career Collaborative, introduces first-year students to the Game of Life—an event that simulates real-world decisions
students will make after graduation about things like food, housing, clothing, and transportation.

In my role as Assistant Director of Champlain’s Career Collaborative, where I oversee our personal finance curriculum, I’ve heard a lot of people say they find money matters intimidating. My goal is to make sure students find our financial curriculum empowering, engaging, relevant, and fun. They come for the requirement, but they stay for the valuable skills they are gaining, and the tangible outcomes they produce. They begin to realize the decisions they make in their twenties set the tone for their financial future. Even those who were once intimidated soon learn to take control of their money and position themselves for lifelong financial success. It’s amazing and gratifying to watch their financial confidence develop.

The InSight Program provides Champlain College students with free and mandatory career and financial education ranging from budgeting to credit review to loan repayment plans.

My goal is to make sure students find our financial curriculum empowering, engaging, relevant, and fun.

Jimena Huaco, Assistant Director, Career Collaborative

A Closer Look at our Personal Finance Curriculum

Our personal finance education begins right away—during the fall semester of first year. Students start by completing a personal financial assessment that helps them establish a baseline understanding of their individual financial circumstances. They also participate in a “Game of Life” simulation, a live action game that challenges them to make everyday financial decisions on a budget—everything from food to car payments to unexpected pet bills. During this simulation, they also learn about cost of living analysis and employment benefits—all built into the simulation. They round out the year by creating a personal budget allocation report— the first step to developing a livable budget that will meet their individual needs while bringing awareness to their habits, and priorities.

Caitlyn Dangvu, ’20 // Accounting, interned at KPMG and is a Personal Finance Peer Coach. Financial Peer Coaches teach fellow students about credit, salary negotiation, budgeting, investments, and student loan repayment strategies.

During their second year, students focus on credit. Responsible credit management sits at the core of financial wellness, and we make sure sophomore-year students learn what it is, how it works, and why it is important. They undergo a personal credit review to learn more about where they stand, and develop a personal credit action plan to address any issues, build credit, and improve their credit score.

Junior year, we turn our attention toward income and expenses. We teach them how to negotiate a salary, develop a cost of living analysis, and evaluate the elements of a compensation package—from retirement offerings to health benefits. There’s also an opportunity to choose from a variety of “à la carte” options, if they are interested in digging deeper into a particular topic.

Senior year, they are getting ready to launch. We return once again to the personal financial assessment they completed as incoming students, and revise it to reflect the changes that have occurred over the course of the past three years. As part of our enhanced curriculum, which we rolled out for the Class of 2023, we are also now requiring seniors to attend a loan repayment workshop. Following the workshop, they’ll be required to create loan repayment action plan to guide them after they leave campus.

At the end of the Game of Life, students balance their expenses and meet with
financial counselors to discuss their decisions. They learn about employee benefits, income taxes, student loan installments, retirement plans, and other personal finance topics.

Building the Foundation for a Lifetime of Smart Financial Decisions

By the time they don their cap and gown, our students have rock-solid skills and tools to guide them through a lifetime of smart financial decision-making. Add to that the extensive career positioning training our students undergo and Champlain grads are, in many ways, unstoppable. They graduate with a distinct advantage over other college students.

Before she graduated, Corrie Erk, B.S. ’12; M.S. ’15, had interned at Mass Mutual Financial in Massachusetts and received a job offer. Erk is now a Senior Analyst, Cyber Threat Hunting at NBCUniversal Media in New York City.

Research shows that wealth doesn’t necessarily bring happiness to our lives. At the same time, when we experience financial strain, the resulting stress can cloud our judgement and further prevent us from making wise financial decisions. This effect can snowball very quickly for young adults.

Having the opportunity to participate in a hands-on personal finance education program—at such a crucial time in their lives—can go a long way to ensuring lifelong personal well-being, independence, and stability. When their four years here are complete, and they embark on the next stage of their lives, we know our graduates have the training they need to make smart financial decisions and pursue their dreams.

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