STORY BY BETH LEVALLEY
Drake University is holding a prize drawing for students that complete the financial literacy program, GradReady.
The prizes will include $500 worth of Drake gear, distributed to all those who complete the first portion of the program by the end of February. There will also be another incentive program implemented in May.
The program offers a comprehensive look at finances, including lessons in a full budget, financial aid vocabulary, an explanation on rental fees and other financial topics.
The coordinators of this program will not receive any of the detailed information from the students’ finances.
The program was implemented during October 2013 and allows students to become more aware of their general financial standing.
This program is free to students, graduates, parents and faculty.
Randi Boelkes, the student loan and collections specialist at Drake, believes that students that are informed about their finances are better off than those who are not.
“There is $3 trillion in student loan debt nationally,” Boelkes said. “This program explains how students can decipher their own student debt. It goes through the process and legal jargon that students may not understand.”
While there were other financial literacy programs before GradReady, including Everfi and Buttonwood, the financial planning office believes this program provides more information about finances as a whole.
When starting the program, there is a pretest that assesses your current financial literacy. There are short videos explaining different sections, quizzes to take after the videos, an interactive full budget and the ability to retake a quiz you may not have understood.
“The program benefits students as well as Drake as a whole,” Boelkes said. “The lower Drake’s default rate is, the better off we are in granting loans to students.”
While Drake is not concerned about their default rate, they urge students to stay informed about the student loans they have.
Brandi Miller, the assistant director of new programs and financial planning, has gone through the program and hopes that students take advantage of the information available.
“They teach the fundamental, need-to-know information in 2 to 3 minute videos,” Miller said. “It also requires students to actually look at their student loans in order to complete different steps. Many students skim over their student loans or promissory notes, and this program requires them to bring about awareness.”
Miller said the most common misunderstanding she hears is the difference between renting and leasing, while Boelkes mentioned most students confuse their Federal Stafford loan and Drake private loans.
The faculty at the financial aid office urge students to keep up-to-date on their personal financial budget.
“Finances can make dreams come true,” Miller said. “Bad spending affects everyone. While this program may not affect me personally, I’ve been working in financial aid for 14 years, and I’m passionate about making students aware.”
While the GradReady program is not a requirement, both Boelkes and Miller agree that the option of a financial literacy course could help Drake students.
“The word ‘require’ is touchy because there are always exceptions,” Miller said. “I think an optional course at Drake would be beneficial, though.”
With the FAFSA priority deadline coming up on Mar. 1, the financial aid office is stressing financial stability more than ever.
Heidi Acton, coordinator of wellness programs and residence hall coordinator, believes that the program could change students’ understanding of finances.
“I just hope that they (students) feel more financially prepared leaving Drake because it can be daunting,” Acton said in a written statement.
Sophomore Kyle Drehmel believes that the budgeting aspect will help Drake students be fiscally responsible adults in the future.
“For people that require a budget, it’s a really good resource,” Drehmel said.