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Cultivating Currency, a Campus Resource about Financial Health for Students

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —With the support of a grant from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and TIAA-CREF, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has launched Cultivating Currency, a one-stop web resource for undergraduate and graduate students about financial health. The goal of Cultivating Currency is to help students make smart choices and to understand how the financial decisions they make while in school can impact their future economic and educational opportunities.

It is common for students to put off thinking proactively about their future finances until near or after graduation, when they are employed in their field, but financial education is lifelong and touches many aspects of our lives. “Today’s students are also in a much different place financially than previous generations,” says Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension educator. “Young adults don’t have the leisure of putting off significant financial decisions in a world of high student loan debt and the shift of responsibility of retirement planning from the employer to the employee. The more students learn now, the better able they are to make sound financial choices.”

“While students on our campus have access to many resources to learn about financial topics, finding those resources can be challenging,” says Alexis Thompson, assistant dean in the Graduate College. “One benefit of this grant is that it enabled multiple units on campus to come together, pooling our collective expertise and offerings on different aspects of financial education, in order to benefit our students.” Participating campus units include: The Graduate College, the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Student Financial Aid, USFSCO Student Money Management Center, and University of Illinois Extension.

On the Cultivating Currency website, students can browse a variety of financial topics such as how to track spending, reduce expenses, protect credit ratings, manage credit and debt, begin investing, and negotiate a salary. Bi-weekly blog posts focus on money habits, resources, and choices typically faced by students: What is the difference between federal and private loans? How can I find employment on campus? What is the difference between saving and investing? How can I save and budget money while maintaining a love life in college? Students can find out about upcoming workshops, Tweet Chats, and webinars sponsored by campus units and can submit questions, which are monitored by University of Illinois Extension Peer Educators.

Here is what students have to say:

“Financial education is important during college, because it prepares students for life choices. If students are not informed, they will make rash decisions which can lead to them going into debt, broke, or even worse. Through the services I have received about financial literacy, I feel more reassured about the decisions I make with my money. If I didn't gain the information I have, I am certain I would be in debt.”

“There are also many more financial options than there were before. Understanding what each entails, how to shop for financial products, and knowing how to use financial tools is critical to making smart choices with spending, debt, and savings. It's important to also protect your assets and even your liabilities. Plus, we're living longer! That means more time to accrue debt. [There is] definitely [a] need to know how to manage everything...from your first allowance to your first retirement payment.”

The U. of I. is one of 15 universities that received a grant from the CGS to be part of the council’s Enhancing Student Financial Education project, co-sponsored by TIAA-CREF.

Visit the Cultivating Currency website at Learn more about the Council of Graduate School’s Enhancing Student Financial Education Initiative at