During Winter Welcome Weekend, a fellow admit broached an interesting question. What, if anything, could be a “silver lining” to his student loans? As a few of us began to debate the question, we rapidly realized that we were struggling to find a great answer. After leaving Philadelphia, I not only carried a wonderful set of memories from an exciting weekend but also the reverberations from the loan conversation in my mind.
The cost of education is prohibitively high and often unattainable without the use of external financing. While this is the bleak reality, is there any way to make this into a more positive situation?
Several months later, as I returned back to Philadelphia for Pre-Term, it was not long before I was once again reminded of my prior thoughts. As my classmates collectively agonized about loans, everyone found comfort in knowing that none of us were facing this dilemma alone. According to FinAid’s Student Loan Debt Clock, there is roughly $1.4 trillion outstanding debt in the United States. To provide some context, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this number is the second-highest level of consumer debt behind only mortgages.
Given we cannot change our current financial situation, can we be better prepared to tackle it in the future? Through pondering this question, I embarked on a series of conversations with Wharton students that verified I was not the only one interested in answering it. Over a period of a few weeks, I saw further validation by witnessing personal finance discussions both within and beyond the classroom. It was clear that something had to be done and thus, the idea for “Common Cents” (a play on the words “common sense”) was born.
As a final check, I posted to the Wharton ’18 Facebook page to inform my classmates of my desire to start a Personal Finance initiative and was incredibly energized from the volume of interest and affirmation I received. With this data in hand, I reached out to various faculty members to garner additional support. Given their positive feedback, I felt confident to move forward in the execution of my goal.
Through this process, I met several classmates who were passionate about the need and together we quickly worked towards materializing the vision. While we faced a tight deadline to secure WGA approval, we deeply believed we could get it done. Fast forward a few weeks and here we are: Common Cents is a new club on campus!
Wharton is a transformative institution and as its graduates, we will gain an analytical toolkit that will be used to help companies navigate their financial intricacies. My hope is to channel some of that discipline and rigor to the studies of our own finances and help Wharton students feel more empowered. Given the importance that Wharton places on providing students with opportunities for growth and the talent that exists within the network, Wharton is uniquely positioned to deliver meaningful progress on Personal Finance. Today, as I think back to that question from Winter Welcome Weekend, I am hopeful that Common Cents will be one form of a “silver lining.”