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Class will address personal finance for students, community members

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Responding to national data that shows a lack of basic financial knowledge among college-age students, the Bethel College business department has developed a new course.

Allison J. McFarland, Bethel College professor of management and marketing, explains that the course, Personal Financial Literacy, is being offered as part of the Management and Marketing Special Topics course rotation. “The Business and Economics Department offers many courses that prepare students to assume leadership positions in business and industry,” she says. “This is the first course we have included in the schedule that focuses on personal financial management.”

Explaining why the business department added this course to its offerings, McFarland points to research done by Charles Schwab & Co. which indicates that only 34 percent of parents have taught their teens how to balance a checkbook. Just 29 percent have explained how credit card fees and interest work.

“The market turmoil and credit crisis of 2008 underscored the critical need for improved financial literacy in the United States,” McFarland continues. “While there are many causes of the economic problems facing the country, it is undeniable that a lack of financial literacy is a contributing factor. Far too many Americans entered into home and other loan agreements that they didn’t understand and ultimately could not afford.

“The lack of basic skills such as how to create and maintain a budget, understand credit, appreciate the difference among insurance plans, comprehend the risks and rewards of investing in the stock market, realize the cost of debt – especially credit card debt – or save for the future are preventing millions of Americans from taking advantage of our economic system.”

She adds, “Key to improving the financial literacy of all Americans is ensuring that our young people have more exposure, at all stages of their educational journey, to formal financial literacy training.”

This course, open to all students regardless of major and with no prerequisites, is designed for those who have little or no background in business, finance or money management. Among the topics covered will be financial statements, taxes, savings, large purchases, credit, loans, insurance, investments and retirement.

Bethel junior Hannah Born, Newton, has enrolled in the spring semester course and thinks the class will be helpful. “I am getting married in January,” she explains, “and am realizing all of the financial obligations that I will be responsible for.

“I have a basic knowledge of finance, but I struggle with some ‘adult’ things like choosing insurance policies and understanding retirement,” she says. “I am hoping that this class will help to clarify those and other financial issues that will probably arise in the near future.”

“The benefit of a course like this is that students can gain information to help them make sound financial decisions at every stage of their life,” says McFarland.

Acknowledging the effect of current economic conditions on the greater Newton community, Bethel will make an exception to its normal auditing policy by opening this specific class to community members free of charge.

“Although financial literacy is a constant need,” says McFarland, “there may be members of our community who could immediately benefit from the content of this course.”

In order to enroll, interested people must complete a special student application, available at the registrar’s office, and enroll for “audit.” Enrollment deadline is January 22, with enrollment limited to the number of seats in the classroom.

The course will use a textbook specifically written for personal financial planning. Though the text is not required for course auditors, McFarland says it will be “tremendously helpful” to anyone enrolled. This textbook is available new or used from Amazon.com by searching for Personal Financial Planning by Gitman & Joehnk (11th edition).

If you have questions about enrolling for Personal Financial Literacy, contact the Office of the Registrar at Bethel College at 316-284-5285.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2009 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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