Starting in Summer 2021, Georgia Tech will offer an opportunity for students to improve their financial literacy and well-being. GT 4100: Fundamentals of Personal Finance is a one-credit course developed to prepare students for financial planning during and after college.
The motivation for the course stemmed, in part, from a 2017 editorial in the Technique that noted the lack of a personal finance course at Georgia Tech. Starting salaries for Tech graduates are among the highest in the nation, yet many leave campus without a fundamental understanding of budgeting, managing student loan debt, and investing.
The course began in 2018 as a special topics course (GT 4801) taught by Jonathan Clarke, associate professor of finance in the Scheller College of Business, in coordination with the Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE).
Personal finance has always been a passion of mine," Clarke said. "I was just hoping to fill a need on campus. We had about 45 students in the first class. Since then it’s progressed to a permanent course number and is offered a couple of times a year.
The Student Government Association (SGA) played a big role in making sure the course became a permanent fixture on campus. "For the past few years, Georgia Tech has grown in emphasizing the holistic student experience, both in and out of the classroom," said Jackson Caruso, vice president of academic affairs for SGA. "Personal finance is an essential and integral part of life success. Ensuring Georgia Tech students have access to this education will not only be useful during their time at Tech, but as they progress into the workforce, graduate and professional programs, or other post-graduation pathways."
GT 4100 will cover a core set of knowledge that students need to be financially literate and build wealth. Students taking the course can expect to learn about budgeting, financial planning, investing, and managing risk, among other topics. In doing so, they can obtain a greater degree of comfort in making financial decisions.
Steven P. Girardot, associate vice provost for Undergraduate Education, helped Clarke in the initial planning of GT 4801 and is excited about how the new course will support Georgia Tech's Complete College Georgia (CCG) work. CCG is a statewide initiative to improve graduation and retention rates at all University System of Georgia institutions. "Recently, CCG incorporated ‘Beyond Financial Aid’ as an area of focus," Girardot said. "This calls for us to help improve the financial literacy of our graduates. We are fortunate to have one of the top business colleges around to help partner on this goal and offer this important course for students.”
Clarke is optimistic about GT 4100 and hopes that it can continue to grow. "I'd like the course to provide some personal finance programming to incoming first-year students — this is a critical time for students to gain some personal finance knowledge," he said. "I'd also like to expand the course to graduate students — who often need a better understanding of personal finance skills." He would also like to see a portion of the course moved online to improve its reach.