Here at Arbol, we appreciate the heavy emphasis being placed on the financial literacy of college students.
Financial literacy is a buzzword for a reason: colleges are trying their level best to marshal resources on behalf of students, who themselves are navigating the complexities of personal finance while also keeping up their grades.
Both sides have a huge stake in the outcome of that journey:
Most colleges and universities in the U.S. are dealing with intense headwinds that range from demographics to inflation to new ways of delivering education. Amidst all that, it’s crucial that the students they enroll don’t fade away because of financial difficulties.
The students, meanwhile, are often taking on debt as soon as they step on campus. It’s an investment in the future, but it’s a huge waste of time and money unless they actually graduate.
Back to financial literacy. Listen, we want to give you the straight stuff on this subject. And the truth that as we see it is that financial literacy as a higher education paradigm is entirely too limited to fully support the challenges we listed above.
What we’re saying is that it’s time to see the forest from the trees (that’s an Arbol-ism. We’re sorry but you'll get used to it). It’s time we abandon the passive, boring learning modules to focus instead on providing real insights and support with financial wellness.
Hey Arbol, what kind of distinction are you trying to draw here? Thanks for asking. Let’s dig into it.
Financial literacy as a process is the act of giving students the knowledge and skills required to make informed financial decisions. That is an admirable goal. Most students who come to campus don’t know the first thing about budgeting, saving, investing and managing debt, and it’s only natural that colleges should endeavor to train them on these things. After all, it’s hard to focus on Intro to Chemistry if you don’t know how you’re going to afford lunch. But the delivery of this knowledge isn’t enough – it’s a facet of the solution rather than the whole shebang. In fact, the delivery is often antiquated and passive. What good are skills and tools with no context? Moreover, what good are those tools if students passively use them? Most of all, what value do those tools have if students rarely access them?
Financial wellness is the bigger picture. It’s the skills and the tools with the mechanisms to use them. The concept takes into account an individual’s emotional and mental well-being, which are explicitly linked to both their financial situation and their performance (in the classroom or on the job). And it involves building new models that help students understand their relationship with money, identifying their values and goals, and then establishing healthy financial habits that help them meet the goals. See what we’re saying? It’s not enough just to deliver the training. We need to a holistic system that acknowledges how complex, important and interconnected these things are. That’s financial wellness, and that’s what the Arbol team believes in.
The beating heart behind Arbol a belief that there’s a better way to help students balance academic success, financial responsibility and a fulfillment. Our company’s co-founders, David Gonzalez and Favio Osorio, are both first-generation college students who had to balance tremendous financial vulnerability with a dedication to top-level academic performance. Both ended up with bachelor’s degrees and MBAs, and ended up working in corporate banking environments, where they learned that the financial world is simply not set up to support people who are struggling to make ends meet. They set out to use all that experience to create a better system helps more students graduate with less debt and more confidence in their financial situations.
Arbol supports our vision of financial wellness with a cutting-edge technology platform that we deliver to colleges, which then introduce Arbol to their students. The Arbol platform will be a much more thoughtful interface than existing personal finance apps, and certainly more than the passive online tools found in most financial literacy tools. We’re building something for the unique financial conditions of a college student, and we’re letting colleges customize it to incentivize healthy financial behaviors that are specific to their own campus. We’ll be able to nudge students toward healthier financial behaviors, and we’ll reward them when they follow that advice. In the meantime, colleges will have the first real-time indicators of students’ financial condition, and be able to step in to help keep them moving toward that end-goal of graduation.
Every student’s financial situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Systemizing financial wellness means giving students 360 degrees of support, including financial stability, security, freedom, emotional and mental well-being and personalized solutions. What we’ve found is that when that infrastructure exists, students are free to pursue their own talent and ambitions.
By the way, Arbol requires very little implementation and dedication. Most importantly, it also allows faculty and staff to provide the social and academic guidance they're best equipped to give.
And when that happens, the sky is the limit for the student and for their college.