Board committee learns about financial literacy, outcomes assessment

HERSHEY, Pa. – Although students may not yet be in a position to determine their entire financial futures, developing good money habits will help students avoid major mistakes and gain control over their finances, a lesson that Penn State is trying to impart.

As part of the Board of Trustees meeting today (March 6) in Hershey, members of the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee shared information on initiatives to educate students about their finances. The committee also discussed learning assessment initiatives.

"Financial literacy is an important life-skill for everyone to possess, and is of utmost importance to students," said Penn State Financial Literacy Coordinator Daad Rizk.

The University has undertaken several financial literacy initiatives, including the establishment of a Student Financial Education Center, which opened in January. The center offers in-person, peer-to-peer financial education to all students studying at University Park, and seeks to improve the financial well-being of students while at Penn State and as graduates.

The center is a partnership between the University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) and the University Libraries, and is staffed by peer educators – students who have been trained in specific areas of personal finance (budgeting, credit cards and student loans) – who work one-on-one with students to improve and sustain financial literacy. Located in 309 Paterno Library in the Schreyer Business Library, the center is staffed from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students can walk in or make an appointment.

Moving forward, the center plans to enrich the peer educator training curriculum to incorporate a "shadow program," workshops and research; and to develop relevant financial literacy programs with topics including meal plan and LionCash tips, and paying off student loans.

In a separate presentation, Tanya Furman, associate vice president and associate dean for Undergraduate Education, and Suzanne Weinstein, director of instructional consulting, assessment and research in the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, explained the University's approach and principles regarding learning outcomes assessment.

Weinstein stressed the important national context of accountability for learning outcomes assessment. She also discussed its direct relationship to the Spellings Commission report of 2006, which challenged institutions to put "faculty at the forefront, define educational objectives and develop meaningful, evidence-based measures."

Penn State is publicly accountable, and makes a wide variety of outcomes -- including graduation rates and costs of attendance information -- available in the University Fact Book online.

Furman and Weinstein outlined the University's approach and principles to support faculty; the annual review process for baccalaureate programs; collaborative efforts across campuses and disciplines; and resources available to help faculty.

Furman and Weinstein said the work currently taking place in conjunction with the General Education Task Force is one of the next steps in the process. In revisioning general education, the task force is seeking cross-disciplinary linkages in thematic content; seeking developmentally appropriate longitudinal growth; defining measurable objectives; and building upon American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) value rubrics, all in an effort to improve educational outcomes for students.

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Last Updated May 12, 2016