Welcome to the Real World: Connecticut Edition For College Students

Welcome to the Real World: Connecticut Edition For College Students

For students entering their first year of college, there are numerous transitions. For many, there will be significant changes in their finances, both in their basic living expenses and over the long term, particularly if they have taken out student loans.

This past year, extension educators Faye Griffiths-Smith and Karen Filchak have worked with the UConn First Year Experience (FYE)  program to offer Welcome to the Real World: Connecticut Edition for College Students, modeled after a University of Illinois Extension program.

During this hands-on interactive simulation, students imagine that they are newly employed and make decisions concerning housing, transportation, insurance, food, clothing and lifestyle, coupled with a few unexpected twists.  Students start out by choosing an occupation and learn their correlating starting salaries as well as their estimated federal and state taxes, so they can determine their net monthly, or take-home, pay. They visit tables representing different expense categories that are staffed by volunteers. If they run out of money, they must make adjustments to stay within their budget. At the last table, students choose a card from a deck of chance. They may receive a slight boost in income, for instance from selling an item they no longer use, or find that they need to cover an unexpected expense such as a speeding ticket, auto repair bill or accident. Students then discuss their choices and what they learned from the program.

The program includes up-to-date information on living expenses from monthly rental fees of apartments in several Connecticut cities and towns to information on health insurance options, including employer-provided coverage and costs based on data from Access Health CT.

Student comments
“I needed to adjust my spending to live within my income.”
“I need to balance necessities with things that I just want.”
“It really opened my eyes about spending and saving money.”
 “It forced us to face reality.”
“It financially prepares you for your future jobs in ways most college students don’t think about.”

“Karen and I are thrilled to be working with college students because they are a prime audience for financial education as they are now starting to make many financial decisions that have the potential to significantly affect their futures,” Griffiths-Smith says.

Filchak agrees. “The earlier that young people learn about money, the better off they will be making decisions that have lifelong implications. The students are very engaged in the program. They ask highly relevant questions and share excellent suggestions on what else they want to learn about money.”

Griffiths-Smith has provided the program to more than 1500 teens and young adults since 2004, most recently working with career counselors at Maloney and Platt High Schools in Meriden. While the program is funded through UConn Extension, organizations are asked to provide onsite volunteers to assist with the simulation. Co-sponsoring organizations are also welcome to provide a monetary donation to help fund this programing.

Griffiths-Smith also provides a variety of financial literacy workshops for adults. Some of these programs include Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck; Financial Fitness Checkup; Parents, Kids, and Money; and Teaching the Financial Facts of Life. Some common topics are goal setting, saving, emergency funds, cash flow, setting up and following a budget (or spending plan), debt reduction and credit reports.

With the support of several community, financial and government partners, Griffiths-Smith serves as campaign coordinator for Connecticut Save$, a social media marketing campaign encouraging Connecticut citizens to assess their finances and increase saving for personal goals. The Connecticut Saves Coalition organizes educational workshops and engaging active learning events throughout the state to help people increase their financial capability. Griffiths-Smith is also vice president of Connecticut Jump$tart, a state coalition promoting financial literacy among young people.

As part of a collaboration between Extension in several states and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Griffiths-Smith teaches a professional development program, Your Money, Your Goals: Financial Empowerment Toolkit for Social Service Agency Staff, to case managers and frontline family workers. They in turn, share specific financial management tools with their clients who can benefit from the material.

Griffiths-Smith also partners with organizations across the state including Hartford JobCorps Academy, the Connecticut Department of Labor and the Connecticut Department of Banking, as well as public libraries, social services agencies, housing authorities and Head Start.

“It is very satisfying to help someone make changes in their life that can benefit them for the long term,” Griffiths-Smith shares. “Due to current economic conditions in our state, nation and many parts of the world, many families find themselves in challenging circumstances. This has led to much stronger public interest in and support for financial education now than at any other time in my career.”

For additional information, contact Griffiths-Smith at (203) 407-3160 or email faye.griffiths-smith@uconn.edu and Karen Filchak at (860) 774-9600 X-16 or karen.filchak@uconn.edu.

By Kim Colavito Markesich