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In 2019, Solvable launched the Solvable Debt-Free Scholarship, to help the next generation of taxpayers start their journey of financial independence and freedom. To apply, students had to write an essay about what personal financial freedom meant to them, and received over 450 applications from students all over the country! Our team of essay readers were blown away by the Some wrote about budgeting, some about investing and some about how their financial struggles growing up have led them to prioritize and pursue financial independence. After a lot of contemplation, one entry stood out as exemplifying the values of Solvable – taking charge of your financial situation and helping others to do the same.
The winner of the 2019 Scholarship was Nicole Stoodley, from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Read her essay below!
A college student can only eat so many bowls of ramen noodles or PBJ sandwiches, but those limits seem to extend when tuition and fees are due, rent needs paid, and the car is on its last leg. For many, college is the first time a person is thrust into the realm of financial responsibility. Not only is higher education expensive in a world that often requires degrees for career credentials, but life and all its associated costs do not pause for degree completion.
I am a graduate assistant in my university’s financial aid office. Day after day students are calling with questions about their school bills and looking for additional sources of aid. Many students take out federal loans each year, piling up debt for a future they are trying to excel in, ignorant of the effects of interest. I receive calls from students who have blown their refund checks within the first couple weeks of the semester, not realizing that money was supposed to last as income for the entire semester. I have been a guest presenter in first-year student seminars discussing the basics of personal finance: spending less, avoiding debt, and saving. Many say this is the first time they have formally been taught these lessons, the effects of which can drastically better prepare a student for financial freedom.
My background is in science education, but as I have pursued new options in higher education, teaching remains my passion while the content has changed. I have come to embrace that college students are not going to remember (or care about) the process of glycolysis or types of metamorphic rocks when they “go into the real world.” They want knowledge and skills on how to navigate life’s, responsibilities, which require a level of financial expertise.
My own experiences with financial freedom inspire me to teach others similar skills. I worry less and enjoy my time more when my needs are taken care of and am not stressed about being able to pay my bills each month. I have learned lessons about prioritizing expenses, reducing unnecessary spending, and preparing for financial stability decades in the future. I have tracked my spending on fast food, changed life habits, become healthier, and have money to now spend on traveling adventures that otherwise would have gone to McDonald’s sweet teas. I created short and long-term goals, am realistic with my income, and continue to expand my financial knowledge base with information on investing and healthcare. I strive to encourage students to also see the benefits of financial planning. I am honest when I say it takes time and critical thinking, but the effects are so worthwhile. Peace of mind is hard to put a price on.
Currently, for an internship I am developing curriculum and online instruction materials for the university’s financial literacy course. I have the opportunity to develop student learning objectives, the points most important for students to know. I am guaranteeing alignment between those objectives and the course’s instruction and collaborating with iGrad to create custom resources and programs for our students. Students in the course will practice authentic assessment, where the process and product are comparable and preparatory for their own financial endeavors. Students analyze their spending, create budgets, compare cost of living in different parts of the country, and reflect on their understanding of credit, loans, taxes, banking, and retirement, to name a few. This platform gives students the opportunity to evaluate their finances and improve their situations at a lower risk. Knowledge gained from the course initiates its own level of financial stability, and if students apply what they have learned they are well on their way to financial freedom.
I fully believe in educating the whole person. We would be failing students if we did not teach them anything other than their discipline’s content. Knowledge itself is freedom, and honing in on financial know-how is sure to support the success of our young generations.