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National Leaders Convene in Davidson to Brainstorm Strategies to Prepare Young Americans for Financial Independence

by Margaret Kaufmann ’15

President Carol Quillen chairs first in a series of President's Council working group meetings.

Koide and Quillen
Melissa Koide, Executive Director of the Council and Deputy Assistant Secretary, Consumer Policy for the U.S. Department of Treasury, and Carol Quillen, Davidson College President.

The postsecondary working group of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans (PACFCYA) convened this week for a day-long meeting hosted by Davidson College President Carol Quillen. The group came together for the first time to set an agenda for the coming year, with the overarching goal of preparing young Americans to make decisions about postsecondary education that will ultimately help them establish financial independence.

Quillen, who chairs the working group, was joined by leaders from the public and private sectors, including Ted Beck, President and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education, Robert Glovsky, Vice Chair and Principal of The Colony Group, Ted Gonder, Co-Founder and CEO of Moneythink, and Beth Kobliner, a personal finance journalist and author, and Melissa Koide, Executive Director of the Council and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Consumer Policy at the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The discussion centered on how to better help high school students plan and save for college and specifically addressed issues of educational access and affordability, including the questions students need to answer in order to make sound decisions about where to go to school and how to pay for it, as well as the kinds of skills students can be taught and how to leverage technology to teach them. Additionally, the participants considered the key questions about student debt that students should address as they plan for life post-high school.

"Higher education is changing to give students more options, and we want to pay attention to these expanding postsecondary opportunities," Quillen said. "We want to pose questions in such a way that high school students will stay engaged."

Although each member brought a different perspective from their respective sectors, the group immediately agreed that it must address the financial behaviors of students in their early high school years by providing them with meaningful guidance.

"It is crucial to change behavior at an earlier age for high school students," Quillen said, "because timing matters."

"The President's Advisory Council includes leaders from diverse sectors including government, higher education, philanthropy, and the financial sector, and we are all working to promote financial capability among more young people," said Koide. "At the Davidson working group, we came together to discuss how best to provide tools and information regarding higher education and student loans. These meetings are a crucial part of the Advisory Council's ongoing efforts as we work to prepare our recommendations for next year. "

Ted Beck
Ted Beck, President and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education.

As a result of the daylong discussion, the working group is exploring ideas for pilot programs in which students would be targeted early in their high school careers to receive individualized attention from mentors, counselors and volunteers. The pilots could assess the postsecondary aspirations of rising sophomores or juniors and measure the success of students as they progress through the college process. Success would be measured against a variety of factors, including enrollment levels in college, graduation rates, debt acquired and initial employment.

During an on-campus lunch, Charlotte-area community members joined the working group for a presentation about the new "Financial Aid Toolkit" developed by the Federal Student Aid (FSA) group of the U.S. Department of Education. The toolkit provides online access to a database of financial aid resources school personnel, community organizations and others who work with students and their families.

The President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans was created one year ago by President Obama to encourage financial capability among young Americans. The council is led by the U.S. Department of Treasury and is comprised of 19 members. The council's primary purpose is to advise the president on ways to provide young Americans with financial knowledge at an early age so that they will make wise decisions concerning their future financial stability. This financial knowledge will not only benefit young Americans in the future, but it will encourage the growth of the nation's economy.

As one of the 19 members appointed to the council and the only college president, Quillen's role is to provide leadership and insight on behalf of the higher education community.