Grants are often viewed as no-strings-attached financial aid, but for students at Syracuse University, an unexpected grant comes with some required courses. Students who receive the university's new Monetary Awareness Program grants will need to participate in a financial literacy program each semester until graduation.
Syracuse is not alone in offering a new grant program for needy students, nor in placing emphasis on financial literacy. A number of schools have stepped up financial aid during the recession, and more colleges are also offering financial literacy programs. High school students in Allegany County, Maryland also have found themselves faced with mandatory financial education. However, Syracuse may be the first to link financial aid and financial literacy in this way.
Grant recipients are hand-picked by the Syracuse financial aid office, typically from students in their sophomore year or above who are on track to borrow significant amounts in federal and private loans to finance their college educations. Students selected for the program receive grants that average between $5,000 and $7,000 per year. The first year of the program awarded grants to 77 students.
Students are able to meet the financial-literacy requirement through a one-on-one meeting, a group session, or online counseling. Each semester's training covers a different topic, ranging from borrowing responsibly to budgeting to credit scores. They tend to focus on students' more immediate financial needs, helping them make wiser financial choices through college instead of focusing on events that might come further down the road, like buying a house.
The financial literacy sessions and the grant money have been well-received so far and seem to be making a difference for recipients. While students interviewed by The Chronicle of Higher Education are still taking on significant debt to pay for school, they are implementing knowledge and skills they've acquired from the Monetary Awareness Program to live more frugally, plan ahead, and minimize the debt they and their families take on.
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