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IU’s MoneySmarts partners with Pete the Planner to help students make smart financial decisions

Peter Dunn

(IU Newsroom) – The Indiana University Office of Financial Literacy and its award-winning MoneySmarts financial wellness program are taking a bold new step to help students at IU and across the country: developing a comprehensive yet practical financial wellness platform to help students make informed financial decisions.

The platform, MoneySmarts U, will be created through a partnership with Peter Dunn. Also known as Pete the Planner, Dunn is an award-winning comedian and brilliant financial mind who writes a USA Today column and is the author of 10 books aimed at helping people create financial stability at any stage of their lives. Dunn is regularly considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world.

“Even the savviest college students can use some guidance when it comes to finances,” Dunn said. “This program will help students learn about and face financial challenges head-on. This is the information people always say they wished they had learned in college.”

MoneySmarts U will provide financial information to guide undergraduate students, grad students and recent alumni — even those in high school who are considering college — before, during and after college. The Office of Financial Literacy, whose MoneySmarts program has been called one of the “5 genius ways colleges are tackling the student debt crisis” by Yahoo Finance and a “Model of Excellence” by University Business Magazine, will license MoneySmarts U distribution to other colleges and universities across the country.

“The goal of MoneySmarts U is to help students make informed decisions that best meet their financial needs, whether that means going to IU or somewhere else, they have the information at their fingertips to make the right decision,” said Phil Schuman, IU director of financial literacy.

MoneySmarts U will have 21 instructional “modules” produced over three years, with seven modules released each year, starting in summer 2017. The modules are 45 to 60 minutes long and include videos, calculators, interactive exercises, download guides and more. The first video, promoting the program, was released last week.

Both Schuman and Dunn said the key to the effectiveness of MoneySmarts U is that it takes an informal and student-centered approach, using lighthearted dialogue and brief lessons to make it easier to approach what are often difficult conversations about money.

“One-third of 18- to 34-year-olds who are not in school live with their parents,” Dunn said. “Our goal is to help students avoid excessive debt and be smart with important decisions.”

Those financial decisions include understanding what EFC means — Estimated Family Contribution — on a loan statement or reducing the amount of “Parent Plus Loans” taken, which are loans parents take on to help pay for their student’s education.

The MoneySmarts program has been a part of Indiana University’s commitment to affordability, which has been responsible for students receiving letters from the university twice a year updating them on how much they have borrowed and what it will take to repay the loans. That effort alone has reduced student loan debt at Indiana University by almost $100 million.

The big differentiators for MoneySmarts U, according to Schuman, are that this type of financial information is coming directly from an institution of higher education and that it takes a holistic approach to overall financial know-how for students.

“It truly is a groundbreaking effort to connect students with the information needed to make informed decisions that create a bright financial future,” he said.

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