Over two years, an alumni-led project to provide financial literacy education has reached an audience of exactly 2,650 Yale College and Graduate School students.
The workshops, sponsored by the Association of Yale Alumni and Students and Alumni of Yale (STAY), feature presentations on issues such as budgeting, taxes, employee benefits and retirement plans. After its first session in April 2013, the workshop has been held 110 times for students and alumni at Yale and across the country. Over this period, the events have earned praise from students and alumni, with participants asking for a greater depth of subject material.
“Every Yale student who wants to develop a comfort level for how money fits into their life should get the opportunity to do so,” said Stephen Blum ’74, the senior director of strategic initiatives at the AYA and the project’s founder.
The workshops have been popular with students, Blum said. He added that participants are surveyed after each session, and they often rate the experience highly.
Though the financial literacy program appears to be a success, several key members of AYA and STAY emphasized the need to expand the workshops’ focus to include the topics on investment management, family budgeting and home mortgages. In the future, Blum said, he hopes that the sessions become part of the academic programs at Yale College.
“My vision is that this should get translated to a credit course at Yale just like accounting courses should again be offered at Yale College,” Blum said. “Yale students should get the chance to learn the language of finance.”
Scott Williamson ’80, the former president of the Yale Club of Chicago and a member of the AYA’s executive board, said the financial literacy workshops offer a tremendous resource for current students and recent graduates.
Dilan Gomih ’13, who became involved with the initiative shortly after she graduated, said she is currently working to make blogs for the workshops to make basic financial knowledge “virtual, viral and accessible.”
“People graduate from some of the most selective universities in the world, and they may be able to do their laundry or make a sandwich, but they otherwise are lacking in some of the essential practical financial skills you need in the world,” Williamson said.
Michael Greenwald ’75, the former vice-chair of the AYA, added that Yale alumni are uniquely qualified to lead these workshops. He said increased funding would allow the AYA to offer more resources to current students.
Alumni interviewed agreed that the aim of the workshop is to ensure that Yale students graduate with a better understanding of personal finance.
John Caserta ’01 — who is the founder of the New Haven financial planning firm Caserta & Co. and volunteers to help lead the AYA workshops — lamented that he graduated from Yale with a poor understanding of basic financial concepts. He said his only experience with financial matters during his undergraduate years was a single conversation with a financial aid officer about student loans.
“It is a fact that we come out of Yale very well-educated and worldly in so many ways, and yet really not aware in so many ways of the basics in finance,” Greenwald said.
The next financial literacy workshop will be held on April 7 at the Rose Alumni House Great Hall.