Best Practices for a Successful Program
To learn more about how Financial Literacy 101 is implemented on college campuses nationwide, please review our implementation case studies or visit Financial Literacy 101 to review curriculum samples.
Request our implementation guide and checklist for more information about setting goals, establishing a team, and managing your program roll-out.
Financial Literacy 101 offers enough flexibility to fit into any number of implementation scenarios, but the following strategies have proven successful for many of our customers:
- Undergraduate Student Requirement
- Program Participation Requirement
- Coursework Assignment
- Scholarship and Other Incentives
- Required Participation with Opt-Out Capability
- Permanent Student Management System Link
- Financial Counseling
Undergraduate Student Requirement
We've found that required participation for all undergraduate students is the best way to implement Financial Literacy 101. Required participation means that all students receive an education on the topics you choose and it brings a shared, "population-level" experience that can encourage healthy financial management attitudes among students. We know from student surveys that the vast majority of students are very satisfied with Financial Literacy 101 and more than 4 of 5 would recommend it to a friend. Providing a financial education to ALL students opens the door to conversations about financial topics based on a shared experience that simply would not have happened without Financial Literacy 101, extending the effect of the program well beyond a single intervention.
Requiring participation also sends several powerful messages to students, including 1) the university community places a high value on financial literacy education, 2) avoiding common financial traps as an undergraduate is likely to lead to greater academic and personal success, and 3) sound financial management behavior is ultimately each student's personal responsibility.
Of course, it's one thing to "require" participation and another to enforce that requirement. Requiring participation is predicated upon integration into other campus programs or business processes of the university. Common examples include:
- Financial Aid - Successful participation in Financial Literacy 101 becomes a condition of the financial aid process. For example, students must complete their assignment before refund checks are disbursed.
- Course Registration - Successful participation in Financial Literacy 101 becomes a condition of the ability to register for courses.
- Orientation or University 101 Courses - Financial Literacy 101 can be one of the assignments required for successful program completion.
Each year, over 100,000 students nationwide are required to participate in Financial Literacy 101 through these required programs.
Program Participation Requirement
Each year, thousands of students participate in optional campus-based programs. These programs could be related to academic counseling, tutoring, peer education, first-generation student programs, athletics, plus more. Adding Financial Literacy 101 as a requirement for participation is a powerful way to engage specific campus populations. Customized Financial Literacy 101 courses can be created to address the needs of each population, and multiple courses can be delivered over time as a further program participation requirement.
One of the most successful groups using Financial Literacy 101 today includes federally-funded TRIO programs. Because these programs tend to be relatively small, many are able to work closely with students, supplementing online education with personalized counseling. TRIO programs are doing some of the country's best financial education work with college students.
Coursework Assignment / Instructor-Led Computer Lab Activity
Using Financial Literacy 101 as part of an "in the classroom" course is a proven way to engage students. Since campus-wide implementations of Financial Literacy 101 include unlimited access codes, unique codes can be created for each department or professor. Unique codes allow maximum flexibility since courses can then be customized to suit the needs of a particular course or department. In fact, multiple courses can be created in order to map the delivery of Financial Literacy 101 topics and interactive exercises to an existing curriculum, supplementing the course with individualized online instruction.
For organizations that do not wish to manage many access codes, instructors may share a single access code and confirm course performance using the public Course Verification Tool. Using a student management system link, course-specific information can also be passed to Financial Literacy 101 for integration with campus systems.
A related approach that has shown success is implementing Financial Literacy 101 in a computer lab setting. Students complete the same modules simultaneously and then participate in instructor-led and small group discussions.
Scholarship and Other Incentives
For institutions that choose not to require Financial Literacy 101 participation, promoting an incentive program offers greater levels of student engagement compared with offering the program alone. Through experimenting with various incentive programs, we've found that students respond most positively to scholarship opportunities (as opposed to free music downloads, for example). Decision Partners automatically enters every student who completes a Financial Literacy 101 assignment in a random drawing to win one of two $500 scholarships we sponsor every year.
Whether you choose to promote the Decision Partners' scholarship program or another incentive program that you manage, relying on incentives to spur participation requires a well-planned marketing effort. Low-cost marketing methods used by universities include direct emails to students, prominent placement of program information on departmental websites, fliers placed around campus, hand-outs placed in key offices (financial aid for example), and articles/announcements in the school newspaper.
Another way to market to students is through a direct link to Financial Literacy 101 placed within each student's personalized student management portal page. Please see "Permanent Student Management Services Link" below.
If you offer your own incentives, we have the capability to randomly select students from your program based on criteria you specify upon request.
Required Participation with Opt-Out Capability
For schools that cannot require student participation, we have created an "opt-out" option that administrators can activate through your administrative control panel. Inspired by the concept of "choice architecture" as described in Thaler and Sunstein's Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, this option makes Financial Literacy 101 participation the default choice, while ensuring that participation is voluntary since students can opt-out at any time. This arrangement makes it possible for financial education to become part of any campus program (like financial aid) and is likely to offer many of the benefits of mandated programs. Students do not have to complete a course to fulfill the financial education requirement, but they do have to make a decision about whether or not they choose to learn more about personal finance.
If this opt-out feature is activated in the Default Settings area of the administrative control panel, students are shown a page immediately after registration that tells them that Financial Literacy 101 is an experience that they can opt-out of now or at any time through their My Account page. The page also shows a few reasons why they may want to participate including student satisfaction ratings and aggregate student survey data. Students then click a "Continue" or a "No Thanks" button.
Students who choose to participate receive the Financial Literacy 101 experience associated with your access code. Students who opt-out are not assigned a course, but they do have complete access to Financial Literacy 101's non-course resources. Students are never locked out of Financial Literacy 101 and they can opt-in at any time to receive the course assignment associated with their access code. If a student opts out, their record in your administrative control panel reflects the fact that they chose to not participate.
Permanent Student Management System Link
Using enhanced single sign-on options, institutions can now place a link on each student's personalized school portal page that takes them directly to Financial Literacy 101 - without the need for the student to enter a password each time. This true single sign-on integration makes registering for and returning to Financial Literacy 101 as easy as clicking a link. In fact, schools can now mandate that students only access Financial Literacy 101 through single sign-on integration through their "Default Settings" page.
We feel that a permanent student management system link is an excellent way to encourage Financial Literacy 101 participation, regardless of whether or not the program is required by the school. A permanent financial education link demonstrates the school's commitment to financial education and offers a seamless student experience. Each student's homepage is likely to be their most heavily trafficked school web page as they progress through school, offering more opportunities for students to choose financial education.
One-to-one messaging and content sharing options make it easier to provide personalized counseling services to students based on their Financial Literacy 101 coursework. For organizations with the capability to provide counseling services, we feel that the combination of online coursework with in-person counseling provides the absolute best strategy for those students experiencing financial and/or academic stress.
Why use Financial Literacy 101 with financial counseling? One of the biggest challenges in financial counseling is gathering information about a student's financial knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Not only is gathering this information through an interview time-consuming, but students in a financially vulnerable situation may also have feelings of shame or embarrassment, possibly withholding information that may be useful in counseling. When a Financial Literacy 101 course has been completed prior to a counseling session, students will have already answered key survey questions related to their financial behaviors in a private setting, completed a monthly budget, been assessed on their comprehension of course topics, and received exposure to many of the subjects typically covered in a counseling session including financial health, budgeting, and debt management. Financial Literacy 101 jump-starts the counseling session, saving the time that would have been spent interviewing the student and allowing the time to be spent on the student's situation as revealed through their Financial Literacy 101 exercises and course work.
In order for students to share personal information with their course administrator, each student must opt-in to sharing their information.