Personal Finance “Learning Lab” Drives Real ROI for Students & Peer Educators

Word of SoHE’s Financial Life Skills (FLS) program has spread across campus, pushing enrollment from 100 students in its first year to 400 students, plus a wait list for year three. What’s driving the surge? In large part it’s the practical instruction in money management that one student described as “valuable information I’ll use the rest of my college career and life.”

But there’s another critical ingredient in the FLS secret sauce: peer educators who work closely with their fellow Badgers in the ways of personal finance.

For example, after the course instructor covers the fundamentals of budgeting, it’s peer educators who work side by side with students to create actual budgets — real-life versions for their current circumstances as well as more complex budgets for projected, post-college salaries and expenses.

In the process, the FLS peer educators learn a lot, themselves. They start with a solid foundation via an Intro to Personal Finance pre-req, and throughout their teaching practice they participate in ongoing training to develop their skills in group facilitation, public speaking, and leadership.

In effect, the model offers a learning laboratory not just for those taking the class, but for the peer educators coaching them, too. They’re developing a skillset that does any UW graduate proud. “These are students with a strong interest in helping people,” says Linda Lepe, SoHE’s director of Consumer Finance and Financial Planning. “And here they’re honing their ability to take complex information and translate it into something anyone can follow.”