By Bernard Hampton, Bank of America Region Executive
In a few weeks, nearly two million graduating college students across the country will be clutching their degrees and entering the workforce.
But an estimated two out of three will start out with the looming hardship of paying off student debt as they launch their post-college lives. In fact, the 2014 graduating class from Florida colleges saw debt increase 32 percent compared to the debt carried in 2004.
So while graduates may have immersed themselves in computer engineering, business and political science, few have earned even a single credit on what is likely their most immediate and toughest test: their financial burdens.
To combat this challenge, decision makers in our community must be called on to help manage student debt and find solutions to financially empower and strengthen the next generation.
The only effective way to make a difference is to acknowledge that by the time we address the needs and challenges that college grads face, it is already too late.
The tenants of financial literacy should be learned at a young age in order to arm people with resources and knowledge to set them up for financial success as an adult.
It’s critical that the public, private and nonprofit sectors join forces in this endeavor.
In fact, last summer the Florida Legislature made an amendment to the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards to include financial literacy in Social Study Standards for K-12 grade students.
Bank of America’s partnerships with organizations like Year Up Miami, City Year, Teach for America and the I Have a Dream Foundation of Miami also help bring critical financial literacy to disadvantaged youth, offering students a unique opportunity at a young age to learn the basics of managing money.
In addition, the United Way’s ALICE Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) is an excellent tool local United Way teams use to better understand the needs of the communities they serve as well as the reasons people may be struggling financially.
Through this resource report, the organization is working to better understand those that are falling short and the immense challenges that they are facing in effort to better serve them and provide realistic and viable solutions to help them succeed.
Today, many young people, including college graduates, are living paycheck-to-paycheck and just trying to stay afloat, working long hours, or are single parents and they tend to not seek out help until they are facing a crisis.
The bottom line is, most of them haven’t been given the tools needed to be effective at budgeting, saving and eliminating credit issues. Instead, they tend to get deeper into a hole that becomes harder and more overwhelming to get out of.
BetterMoneyHabits.com is a great resource, providing real, practical knowledge in order to support those that want to begin making confident decisions when it comes to money and debt.
That’s why it is so critical to help break down intimidating topics and talk through simple steps to take – such as creating an action plan for getting out of debt or what one’s options are in an emergency cash situation.
Aware of the support our local partners provide to those living paycheck to paycheck, we’re working at the grassroots level to distribute this content directly to them.
This issue will remain one of the most critical for the next generation, and we will all need to continue to think about how we can work together to ensure students’ financial success.
RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.
Cover Photo Credit: Cory M. Grenier/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)