U.Va.'s Financial Literacy Program Wins National Franklin Award

April 29, 2008 — The University of Virginia is the 2008 winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award from the National Student Loan Program, which recognizes outstanding financial literacy programs administered by postsecondary schools.

The award was presented to U.Va. Tuesday at a ceremony in the Colonnade Club. Sharon Cabeen, vice president of financial literacy for NSLP, praised U.Va.'s program and the passion with which members of the University's Office of Student Financial Services have approached its implementation.

"You have shown us that the model we thought would work really does work," Cabeen said. "You have made this program happen in a most unusual way. We tell people on campuses we visit throughout the country that if they want to do financial literacy education right, they should do it like U.Va."

Juan Perez, vice president for business development at NSLP, presented the plaque to Yvonne Hubbard, U.Va.'s director of student financial services.

"We are very proud to receive NSLP's Benjamin Franklin Award recognizing our financial education component of AccessUVa," said Hubbard. "We want our students to understand how financial decisions have the ability to impact their lives, not only while they are students, but also as they move into the workplace. We want them to learn how to make decisions to maximize their financial success."

In 2005, the University began evaluating and phasing in a comprehensive, structured financial education program to teach students and their families money management skills. Financial education is part of AccessUVa, the University's innovative financial aid program that encourages socio-economic diversity within the student body.

"The financial literacy component of AccessUVa is not an afterthought," Hubbard said. "We have made it clear from the start that AccessUVa is not just about money but about preparing students for the lives that they will lead."

The University's successful program includes several components, which evolved from an initial assessment of the financial knowledge of first-year and fourth-year students to determine what students needed most.

•    A "Money Matters" brochure was created for new undergraduate students and their parents, which includes "how-tos" on budgeting, opening a bank account, using credit cards wisely, managing debt and where to find helpful financial management resources.

•    The University partnered with the National Student Loan Program, Bank of America and Experian, a national credit reporting agency, to provide workshops for first-year students on budgeting, using credit cards wisely, debt management, consumer rights and managing their credit history. Students learned how to interpret their credit information. Pre- and post-tests measured the financial knowledge of the students, which enabled the University to gauge the program's success.

•    The University has successfully incorporated financial education into other on-Grounds events and classes. New students who arrive on campus in the summer to get a head start on fall classes are given the financial education program as part of their larger summer program. The University also learned the best way to present workshops is to partner with student organizations.

•    New students must successfully complete a "safe computing" test before they can access the campus network. As part of this test, the University quizzes students about identity theft, how to know the warning signs of identity theft and what to do if they become victims. This introduces students to a financial literacy topic. After the quiz, students are given links to several resources where they can learn more about preventing identity theft.

•    University students can also use NSLP's Financial Literacy Online (www.nslpflonline.org), a series of six free, online courses on budgeting, contracts, credit, credit history, identity theft and education finance; or access "CashCourse," an online financial education resource from the National Endowment for Financial Education.

•    Students also have access to one-on-one financial counseling provided by the University's Student Financial Services staff, who completed an intensive training program to become accredited financial counselors through the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. The University partnered with the NSLP to offer the certification program and help staff complete the course requirements.

In addition to ongoing evaluation and adaptations to make the program even more widely accessible for students, the University's "Hoo's for Open Access" student group will help determine the next steps for augmenting the program and making it even more meaningful for students.

NSLP established the Benjamin Franklin Award to recognize outstanding financial literacy programs by postsecondary schools. The award is given to one school annually in conjunction with Financial Literacy Awareness Month in April. Financial literacy programs are evaluated on four key areas of creativity, quality, effectiveness and sustainability. Schools are not required to use NSLP's products to be eligible for the award.