MoneySmarts U: Financial Literacy Made Fun

In Brief:

  • Indiana University created MoneySmarts U which utilizes gamification to change behavior — not to memorize financial terms.
  • MoneySmarts U progresses from first-time students planning for college expenses, to university students and then new grads learning about the loan repayment process and navigating real-world financial situations.
  • MoneySmarts U is having a positive impact on students and it shows.

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Author: Natalie Schwarz

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What's MoneySmarts U?

In this time, more than ever, students need access to tools that aid in budgeting and financial literacy. Indiana University created MoneySmarts U which utilizes gamification to change behavior — not to memorize financial terms.

Created in 2018 by Indiana University, MoneySmarts U has been designed to get students thinking about the best way for them to navigate their financial lives in college and understanding how to manage money responsibly.

“We created MoneySmarts U to help students learn what they need to know about finances in part to help lessen some of the financial stress they feel,” said Phil Schuman, executive director of financial wellness and education at Indiana University. “We believe in the just-in-time approach to financial education. We created a program that gives students information based on where they are in their educational journey.”

How it works

The program begins with a course for high school students considering college, and then delivers new content each year afterwards. MoneySmarts U progresses from first-time students planning for college expenses, to university students and then new grads learning about the loan repayment process and navigating real-world financial situations. In other words, students learn about the issues that matter to them and the things they’re dealing with at that very moment.

A great part of MoneySmarts U is that it’s not only for Indiana University students. Other institutions can use this program as well. It can be used as program-specific or a service available to all students.

“At Indiana University, we’ve used MoneySmarts U as a requirement for first-year students. We then utilize our partnerships across our University system to have students engage with the material beyond the first year. We’ve also seen some universities require a portion of the program for graduation, while other times professors have added modules as part of the course syllabus,” said Schuman.

On the home page of the program, MoneySmarts U is broken down into parts or “Seasons” in which different topics are offered depending on what the student wants to learn about. According to Schuman, MoneySmarts U gives students the financial information they need to know, when they need to know it. In addition, the goal is to improve financial habits, not just to create knowledge gain.

The Student Status (Season One) is for where the student is in their educational journey from high school student to grad student. Student Situations (Season Two) is tailored to different needs — including international students, student athletes, student veterans, or those considering medical school. Deeper Dives (Season Three) lets former or graduate students explore topics they have questions on like budgeting, credit, and insurance.

To keep the program interesting and fun, each section starts with a short video of a student asking a financially relevant question, then the host of the program, Peter Dunn (a.k.a. Pete the Planner®), explains how the course will provide the answer. An activity is then provided with information specific to that user’s own financial life to help further the conversation.

Results

MoneySmarts U is having a positive impact on students and it shows.

“We are seeing self-reported improvements in student financial behaviors,” said Schuman. “As students go through the courses, they are making proactive changes to their financial behaviors. Our hope is that these improved behaviors will help them lead a financially well life during and after college.”

For universities interested in learning more about utilizing the program for themselves, visit moneysmartsu.com or contact Phil directly at phaschum@iu.edu