Boise State personal finance course helps students manage their money outside of college

college of innovation and design
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter
This article was written collaboratively by staff writers Kelvin Yamada and Lucy Dajani.

A “normal” freshman year followed by two years of pandemic dead zone. Next spring, most graduating students enter the job market. The Applied Personal finance class can help face challenges of negotiating salary, paying off student loans, budgeting for an apartment and establishing saving habits for a more secure future. 

The College of Innovation and Design piloted a class in fall of 2016 for students wanting to learn about financial wellness. Whitney Hansen, adjunct professor for the College of Innovation and Design, successfully fulfilled the Boise State Curriculum Committee’s strict class requirements to officially add the new course in 2017. 

Hansen earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in business administration from Boise State University. She coaches personal finance for individuals and hosts The Money Nerds Podcast. 

 “A lot of student athletes take the course, and I have a lot of seniors,” Hansen said. “That’s when life is getting real, right? I’ve got student loans, I’ve got to figure out how to negotiate my salary, all of this stuff is a little more forefront.”

college of innovation and design
[Photo of Boise State’s College of Innovation and Design, located on the second floor of the Albertsons Library.]
Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Hansen said she thinks that student athletes in particular take her course because she has a good relationship with the Athletics Department. She credits the Athletics Department for wanting student athletes to get an adequate financial education. Previous students enjoyed the class, and by word-of-mouth student athletes continue to sign up for the course.  

“Yes, I think this class is definitely worth taking,” said junior communication major Holly Stewart, who competes for Boise State’s tennis team. “This is the first time for a lot of athletes who have been given money, and it would help to get information on how to save or spend or use your money wisely while being away from home.” 

According to Forbes magazine, graduating seniors in 2019 had an average debt of $29,000, 92% being federal grants. Hansen herself finished school $30,000 in debt. She got two jobs, made a budget plan and paid off her debts in 10 months. 

Hansen’s class teaches budgeting, saving, insurance, taxes and investing. A popular class topic is setting up a side hustle for extra earnings, and how to travel economically. She said the research project consistently gets positive feedback. Each student chooses a topic of personal interest to research and explore. Student topics included how to flip shoes on eBay, how to start a landscaping business and how to talk about money with your partner. 

“They are really diverse topics … It’s a really fun part of the class too,” Hansen said. 

Hansen credited the Venture College at the College of Innovation and Design for helping her start her own business as a personal finance coach. 

“Whitney is incredible,” said Cara Van Sant, interim associate director of Venture College. “She is one of those unicorns that has come through and done such an incredible job.” 

Two pieces of feedback Hansen receives every semester in course evaluations are, “they wish they had to take this class, they wish it was a requirement, and they wish they took personal finance sooner,” she said. “It’s an issue. It really is. I’ll do anything to get the class in front of more students. That would be awesome!”

Follow Hansen on Twitter @whitneyhansenco.

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