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Class teaches financial, legal savviness for jobs

Justin Tardiff | Friday, October 28, 2005

For many, the realm of finance is an intimidating place that requires forms to fill out and math skills to survive, but with the help of one Saint Mary’s professor, students can acquire an understanding of the legal and financial jargon of the real world.

“If I could, I would call my class ‘Reality Bites,'” professor Susan Vance said. “I want [my students] to know the different terminology that is used in health plans. I want them to know how to figure out which mutual fund is best for them.”

Vance – a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and attorney – has been offering Legal and Financial Literacy to a majority of non-business majors for about four years. Students learn about employee benefit selection, consumer debt and credit card management investing, budgeting and how to prepare for taxes.

“The average college student upon graduating is not prepared to make intelligent choices about those options that are set forth the first day on the job,” Vance said. “If we want women to be prepared for the world once they graduate, it’s important that women understand their finances and are able to make good decisions about that.”

A 1997 study by the National Center for Women and Retirement Research said 33 percent of female investors avoided making decisions out of fear of making a mistake compared to 22 percent of male investors. Math anxiety is also more acute in women than in men, the study said.

Allison Nichols, a senior communication studies major, said she decided to enroll in the class because of its useful information and design for the non-business major.

“I would highly recommend the class,” she said. “I think it should be made a general education requirement.”

Vance said students or other professors recognize the value of the course and encourage others to enroll.

Vance will be spending much of her upcoming sabbatical this spring researching student interest in the course and learning for which financial topics students have the most interest.

“In general, the vast majority of colleges and universities don’t offer courses like this,” she said. “It says good things about Saint Mary’s College that we’re offering one.”