By David Tuma, The Belton Journal
There is no question that students leaving college face a different world than previous generations of Americans. The national debt, run up over the past 25 years, eats up a good chunk of each year’s budget, with no end in site or a reality check from anybody. This isn’t politics, it is the reality that debt leaves less to live on.
It is kind of like in your personal life. You make $40,000 a year and you have $30,000 in credit card debt. Life isn’t a lot of fun.
Belton New Tech High School @ Waskow teaches budget and financial responsibility. One of the greatest obstacles that graduates face is financial literacy. The goal of Finance in the Classroom is to help future college students become aware of the tools needed to make responsible financial choices.
The Government and Economics class is taught by Marisa Nave. It involves more than just financial matters of budgeting. The class teaches career planning, including planning how much college debt students will accumulate and how they will play for that in the career path they choose.
Students have to pick a college and whether they are going to buy or rent after they graduate. Students develop a 5-year after college plan. That plan includes college debt, where they will live, food, pay, car expense, insurance and the list goes on and on.
The monthly budget the students are expected to make includes the area of the country they will live in. They are expected to research utility providers and car insurance. The cost of cable television, phone expenses, gasoline and any money they will put aside for savings. This isn’t just some far-fetched government plan with no way to pay for it.
This is reality being taught in Texas schools. It’s cold and hard.
“After college when they start looking for a job they were shocked at how expensive things are. We even talked about the cash needed for a down payment on a home. This class focuses them on their future. They have to look at the tough questions. It forces them to do that. I know they are 17-18 years old but they need to look at these things now. We completed a whole project just on credit scores. They had to learn how to maintain a credit score. In the class we went over the different credit cards and their rates. The idea is to teach how to build a healthy credit score,” said Nave.
Once they have completed their research and budget, each student created a multimedia presentation of their findings and presented to the class. Students were required to write an essay on credit scores. They spent time on the importance of paying on time. “You can damage your credit rating in a couple of months and it takes years to correct that,” said Nave.
The class worked on a project starting a business in Morgan’s Point Resort. MPR City Manager David Huseman spoke to the class about what is or isn’t feasible in terms of businesses that might survive there. They had to find a building and develop a business plan based on reality, including cost of rent or building a new location, cost of equipment, supplies and payroll. They actually created a real plan for the city.
“These classes help you in real life. Waskow puts a real life spin on things. Huseman said people who live in Morgan’s Point work somewhere else. They are loyal to the local businesses but are away during the day. I liked the creativity of the project. Once you get into it, there are a lot of factors involved. I learned that it took money to do this,” said student Emily Stephens.
“This school opens the students up to real life,” said Nave.