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You Won't Want the Freshman 15,000

Financial mistakes made in the early years of college can hang around, and worsen, as the student graduates and heads out into the real word. That "hangover," the Higher One study says, can lead to an "increased risk of negative financially related outcomes" later in life.

While the report doesn't call out parents for not teaching their kids good money habits, it does brush aside any role mom and dad might have once their kids leave for college. The study calls for more pervasive and powerful financial literacy programs on campus for college freshmen.

"This report sounds the alarm that institutions must augment current financial literacy education," says Mary Johnson, director of financial literacy and student aid policy at Higher One. "We need to ensure students entering into college are given the right financial literacy education, tools and support to make sound financial decisions while in college and beyond."

Above all, college financial literacy programs need to take into account a student's "attitudes, motivation and behaviors" in teaching them better money habits, the paper states.

"Colleges and universities -- especially those enrolling greater numbers of first-generation students than ever before -- have an obligation to improve financial literacy and increase positive financial outcomes for our students," says Steven Bahls, president of Augustana College in Illinois. "As leaders concerned with transparency, accountability and access, our primary and time-honored concerns are to educate the whole person, which must include students' financial health."

The study notes that 79% of first-year college students worry about debt, and another 28% come to college carrying credit cards -- an alarming number, the report says. The good news is that 86% of college freshman do have a bank account, and most interact with their banks several times per month.

For parents and young college students, the Higher One report is worth a look.

Apparently, an ounce of prevention now can prevent a pound of problems later. And that goes way beyond the traditional "Freshman 15."
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