Online Solution for Students to Overcome ‘Akrasia’ in Financial Planning

“Just knowing what to do is not the same as doing it,” said Dr. William L. Vanderburgh, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Executive Director of Office of Faculty Development and Student Success at Wichita StateUniversity in Wichita, Kansas. “As a philosopher, I have to mention that Aristotle knew all about this. He had a concept ‘akrasia’, which is you know what to do but you do something else instead. What we’re all talking about here today is overcoming akrasia.”

Vanderburgh was referring to putting financial education to practical use with, a free financial planning website set up to reach out to students to help them prepare for college. Vanderburgh and Timothy Hagan showcased their website and program at the Financial Literacy and College Persistence Conference on January 18 at Menlo College.

“We’re not really doing research or theory, we’re trying to reach out to students and help them prepare for college. That’s our goal. We’re based in Kansas at Wichita State University, but we’re not really a college-based program,” said Vanderburgh. “We have a college access grant, which is a federal grant program administered by the states.” The goal of a college access grant is to try to improve access, to try to get students to come to college and be successful in college with a special focus on underrepresented groups. Vanderburgh explained that they wanted not just a statewide focus but also to try to create a tool that could be useful around the country for students everywhere.

“We know that the online tool we’re talking about today is not a silver bullet; it’s not a panacea; it’s not going to solve this problem for everyone but there are a lot of students and families out there who just don’t have access to other things like personal money management centers on their campuses that can help them,” said Vanderburgh. “This is a supplement to what’s available and an effective tool for those who don’t have other kinds of resources.”

The audience for includes students who are considering college and high school educators, guidance counselors, and college success staff. The ultimate goal is to improve college success by teaching basic personal financial management. Their course teaches and encourages sound money management skills.

Vanderburgh recommends that students focus on three things: Choose a college you can afford; have a college financial plan that extends beyond college including repaying your debt; acquire basic college skills for life.

Vanderburgh explained that is different than some other products that are available because it is personalized. Students can enter their own information about which colleges they are interested in, what their own personal financial situation is and then they can use worksheets to work out what their own financial plan is. The program is free, and it is unbranded without advertising of any kind.

“It’s its own entity, and will remain that way, even though the college access grant program is likely to dry up this year,” said Vanderburgh. “We will maintain this website even though this grant program ends and we’re also working on other funding.”

Timothy Hagan, Financial Literacy Grant Project Coordinator in the Office of Faculty Development and Student Successat Wichita State University wrapped up the presentation with a visual tour of the website, focusing on some of the website’s financial charts illustrating federal student loan comparisons, installment loan charts comparing student loans to other types of loans, and interest rate/fee comparison on the total interest paid in one year on a $1,000 loan balance. He also reviewed teaching resources available on including lesson plans available for educators.