Teaching Financial Literacy to MUSC Students as They Prepare for Professions | MUSK

The Medical University of South Carolina is trying to make it easier for students to understand their finances and plan for the future with its new Student Financial Literacy Office. Dental student Mackenzie Long said there was definitely a need.

“I’m completely on the ready. I went through phases that really stressed me out,” she said. “I think the Student Financial Literacy Office will be a great resource to have on campus.”

The office, on the fourth floor of the Harper Student Center at 45 Courtenay Drive, offers students advice on debt management, budgeting, insurance, savings, retirement planning, housing decisions, construction loan and more.

Liz Gumbiner runs the office. She said it offers this range of options to meet the varied needs of students. “I think a lot of students, especially at the graduate level, come from different backgrounds. Some may be married, others with their own families. They may have just come out of undergrad. Some might still be on their parents’ health insurance. And so they come from all walks of life and all stages of life, which is why the program needs to be developed in such a solid way.

Dental student Mackenzie Long

The office opens as MUSC looks for ways to reduce the kind of student debt that has long worried. The university clearly lists the cost of degrees for each of its academic programs, which are published online under the college in which they are housed.

But knowing the cost is not the same as understanding how to keep debt as low as possible, said Suzanne Thomas, Ph.D., vice provost for educational planning and effectiveness at MUSC.

“What worries us is the fact that students are going to start at MUSC and they’re so excited to be there. And they might not be thinking, ‘How should I budget and watch my pennies and my dollars? to minimize my debt when I graduate?” Thomas said.

“If they don’t pay attention to these issues until they finish their studies and, for example, if they have just accepted the maximum amount of student loans available to them, it can be a shock to see the final debt at the end of their studies. And it’s not unique to MUSC students. Across the country, healthcare students are heavily in debt, which may impact their choices when they graduate.

Gumbiner said part of his job is to teach students that they don’t need to take the maximum amount and that what they don’t spend they can return. “Having less debt and understanding how to tackle it in a timely manner will allow students to start their careers with a solid financial plan and better financial health.

His office will send students a college cost analysis twice a year. “It will track how much they are spending on their student loans and give them a prediction on the other side, what it is going to cost them in payment. When they see what the payment is going to be, it can help them make different choices.

Gumbiner will work with students individually, speak in groups, and encourage professors to talk about finances with students. Students can make an appointment on line.

A group of young women seated at a table look to the left.  Some wear medical scrubs.
From left, College of Health Professions students Morgan Myers, Stewart Trask and Ansley Hughes listen to Gumbiner. Photo by Sarah Pack

Thomas hopes the office will change the culture at MUSC when it comes to financial literacy. “It gives us a centralized resource and expertise. We never intended to replace or remove anything that colleges want to continue doing to help students understand and manage their finances,” she said.

“But having Liz in the position that she’s in, with her expertise as a financial literacy educator, she can tailor some educational activities for physical therapy or dental students, for example.” But it will also offer university-wide services, support and knowledge, no matter what university program you are in.

Long said the office is expected to generate a lot of interest from students. While they focus on learning, the Office of Student Financial Literacy can help ease their worries about how to manage their money and debt most effectively while in school and when they embark on their career. The goal is to improve the student experience by improving their financial well-being.

“I would say as far as things that worry me in the future, it’s about whether a few years after dental school, and whether I want to buy a house? What if I want to buy into a practice. If I want to do these things, I really have no idea how debt will impact my ability to do these things,” the dentist-to-be said.

“And then I think I also had the mentality of having to rely on my significant other’s income and credit and all of that to help me out because I don’t have an income. So I can’t even get a credit card without someone signing with me.

It’s a lot to manage. Gumbiner said MUSC recognizes this and opening its office shows its commitment to students beyond the classroom. “I never want a student to leave MUSC thinking, ‘You know, I wish I had known that,’ or ‘I would have made different choices,'” she said.

Sarah J. Greer