The prospect of a college degree is something that many K-12 students pursue as their way to becoming successful adults. And the numbers show why – nearly 70 percent of jobs in New York will require a degree or certificate by 2020. But when it comes to the college planning process, there’s a lot of information to digest and decisions to be made outside of the academics.
That’s why SUNY developed Smart Track, a tool to help students and families understand college costs and develop a financial plan for the future. Originally developed for college students who are beginning new financial adventures in college, the program is now growing even larger. Together with the New York State Department of Education, SUNY today pushed out a version of the Smart Track financial literacy website to high schools across New York. Best of all, there is no commitment and it’s all free!
The free online courses are built to help students learn how to plan their financial future and the costs of college, regardless of where they wish to attend. The journey through college is more than an acceptance letter and time spent studying. There is a financial commitment involved in earning a college degree, and SUNY Smart Track is meant to help students understand how to best plan their way through college and after with little debt and smart, sound financial activity.
The Smart Track financial literacy tools include a series of brief, interactive online courses, as well as tips to prepare for college, a directory of career options in New York, information about filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, and a direct link to start the process. In addition to the tools and resources available, visitors can chat live with a SUNY representative and create a financial plan specific to the needs of 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade students. All these can be done at a time that fits the student and parents’ schedules.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, student debt is often tied to lower grades among college students. So helping students better plan for their financial future while at college is important, and parents, teachers, and administrators are well aware of the benefits of teaching them how to do so.
“With the financial investment students are making in their education, it is imperative that our students fully understand the cost of their education, and what this means in terms of their financial obligations after college,” said Kristen Mesick, guidance counselor at Colonie Central High School near Albany. “Programs like SUNY Smart Track™ give our students the tools to plan to finance their education and be smart about their financial futures. SUNY Smart Track™ gives our students a better understanding of credit card usage, financial borrowing, understanding bank statements – all tools that will help our students make smart financial decisions in their futures.”
In order to get these resources out to students across New York, SUNY is also working with the State Education Department to provide tutorials and training webinars for high school counselors and administrators, upon request, as part of rolling out the new website. Those interested can contact SUNY’s Smart Track™ Office at email@example.com or at (518) 445-4058.
Taras Kufel is the Manager of Digital Engagement at the State University of New York.