Lawmakers Seek Solutions to Improve Student Awareness of Financial Literacy


SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – The Free Federal Student Aid app is one of many resources available to help people understand finances at a young age. Illinois lawmakers are wondering if the state can do more to help people with financial literacy.

If you have a student, you are probably preparing for the opening of the FAFSA application process on October 1st. Filing important documents online can be a great learning experience for young people heading off to college.

Many universities across the state offer FAFSA workshops and national Money Smart Week presentations to help people make more informed financial decisions. The Illinois House Higher Education Appropriations Committee heard testimony from colleges and banks Thursday morning. Most higher education institutions partner with high schools to offer courses on scholarships and loans to prospective students.

However, representatives from universities and banks said it was also important for teens to start financial literacy before applying to college.

“I know my kids’ friends have told me that getting an ATM card that can be used in Apple Pay or Venmo or some of these other areas is becoming more and more of a barrier in some institutions that don’t allow it.”

Wintrust Bank experts explained that many financial institutions offer student checking accounts to people as young as 13 years old. Most student checking accounts come with a debit card, and banks are trying to encourage more young people to use online banking to help them reconcile their accounts frequently. base.

75% of Americans don’t have $500 set aside for emergencies, according to a study by the Illinois Bank On Commission. That’s why several universities are starting conversations about financial literacy during student orientation so that young people and their families can ask questions about their future bills.

A representative from Northern Illinois University noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has added financial stress to families sending students to college. NIU established a new Office of Student Financial Advisory Services in April 2021 to be proactive and provide strategies students will need to be successful after graduation.

“The main goals of this unit are to help our students understand how to reduce expenses such as making decisions about medical insurance, payment plans or creating a budget,” said Sol Jensen, vice -Chair of NIU Enrollment Management.

The NIU and other universities have also maximized available resources such as scholarships, employment earnings, federal aid, and loan options. While many higher education institutions organize seminars to help young people learn more about balancing budgets or paying off their debts, some colleges are seeing low attendance at learning sessions. Governors State University is now offering bookstore gift cards to try to attract students to FAFSA workshops.

“We’re always looking for ways to get better engagement in these types of events and this type of information that are obviously very important to our students and our constituents,” said Matthew Zarris, associate director of financial aid at Governors. State University.

The Illinois Bank On Commission is also trying to help more people understand how financial decisions can impact their entire lives. This group spoke with Illinoisans who have high credit card debt and can’t buy a car or buy a house because they’ve never had any education about the impacts money has on their future.

Mike Lee is President and CEO of KCT Credit Union and chairs the Financial Empowerment Sub-Committee of the Bank On Commission. Lee thanked universities and financial institutions for trying to find solutions with lawmakers. He said Illinois is failing people without a basic foundational education in life skills involving money.

“If you’re good at math or not good at math, you can do very well in life,” Lee said. “But if you don’t do well with money, your whole life is going to be a struggle.”

The Bank On Commission will present recommendations to the General Assembly to help draft future laws aimed at improving financial literacy. Representative Debbie Myers-Martin (D-Olympia Fields) sits on the commission with Lee. She hopes to see the state create a universal approach to financial literacy.

“We can address some of these situations and circumstances that you find in your workplace as well as others,” Myers-Martin said. “I’m sure a lot of other people who work in the financial industry see it every day.”

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