Capstone courses should teach students to handle money

Dan Rice

Dan Rice
Dan Rice

Capstone courses are typically taken by Colorado State University students during their senior year with the intent of preparing us for the world we are about to be thrust into: one of jobs, families, taxes, college loans and no more school. This is a good enough concept, in theory. After all, what was the purpose of spending four years of our lives in college if it fails to help us once we graduate?

However, my capstone for communication studies leaves a bit to be desired. Some of the speakers and concepts we have discussed in class certainly have value, at least in that they attempt to engage us and get us to figure out what we want to do with our lives after graduation. Yet the classes, which are three hours long on Tuesday evenings, feel like 90 minutes worth of content stretched to twice the necessary length to justify giving students three credit hours. This is not something I blame on the teacher or guest speakers, but instead on the curriculum of the class, which is so insubstantial that we often go over rubrics for an hour in class just to fill up time.

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So while I can’t say for sure that all capstone classes are like this, I propose that an important topic be added to the capstone curriculum: financial management. This is a subject that will affect all of us, no matter what path we take in life or what major we’re pursuing, and one that has gone almost entirely ignored by the education system, or at least the one I have taken part in. To be sure, it is important to figure out our goals in life and how we plan to sustain ourselves, but if we make money and then don’t know how to use it, what good does it do to work for it?

The thing is, my parents never taught me anything about handling money. Neither did my public education in the Poudre School District here in Fort Collins, nor my core curriculum classes at CSU. The only things I know about finance, saving and investing (and I don’t know a lot) are what I have learned through personal research and my business minor courses, and I can say with some certainty that many of my peers are in the same position. Every time I hear someone say, “Let me move money from my savings to checking account so I can pay for this movie,” I cringe a bit on the inside, thinking about the college loans looming over us all. Sure, most of us are working low-paying jobs during college, but I feel like this is strong evidence that we as college students (and especially as seniors) are ill-equipped for the world that is waiting for us, and we would do much better with our money if it were openly discussed in class.

Financial management is by no means the most exciting thing that could be added to a capstone curriculum. Its benefits are more evident in the long run than the short, and not everyone is a big fan of math. However, if it is taught within the context of a capstone class as a course dedicated to preparing us for our futures of college loans, mortgages and car payments, I think seniors would pay attention to it, which would help us succeed after college and not sleep in our capstone classes at the same time.

Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @danriceman.