We’ve all heard the old adage: give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he’ll never be hungry again. It was with that in mind that MAX by AccessLex® was designed, to be a sort of personal finance bait and tackle box, if you will. A first-of-its-kind comprehensive, innovative and effective financial education program created expressly for law students. With its in-depth curriculum and multi-faceted approach, MAX was built to drive the knowledge gain and behavior change essential to making sound financial decisions while in school — and in life.
Because at a time when complaints about student loan servicers jumped more than 300% in the first three months of this year compared with the same period a year ago, and the nation’s largest student loan servicer is on record as saying, “There is no expectation that the servicer will act in the interest of the consumer,” loan counseling has never been more needed.
And yet, debt management isn’t the whole story. Law students need an education in personal finance that lays the foundation for making informed financial decisions, about student loans and about so much more. But, law school is an investment, and often a tremendously expensive one. And students need to understand the short- and long-term implications of the decisions they are making.
In other words, law students need to learn how to fish.
Of course, creating a program to improve financial capability among students in any discipline is obviously a good idea, but a lot of things look good on paper. We knew that to truly make this an impactful resource, we had to get into the heads of our specific end users: law students. We had to know what they wanted and needed in a program like this. And we had to learn what would keep them engaged.
So, we asked them.
We initiated a pilot program to test specific program elements and delivery mechanisms with more than 5,000 law students and administrators at over 40 law schools contributing to focus groups and surveys.
Participants generously offered their insight on everything from financial knowledge and current financial behaviors to what schools and students want – and need – in a personal finance program.
The feedback was outstanding — and very revealing. Of the students surveyed:
- 25% don’t budget or track their spending;
- 42% worry about being able to pay for their monthly expenses;
- 70% feel stressed about personal finances;
- 77% are worried about their student debt growing; and
- 85% of respondents gave themselves a grade of B- or lower for ‘personal finance knowledge.’
Students further commented that a law school that offered a well-defined personal finance curriculum would be viewed as “caring about their students as individuals” and “respectful of the substantial financial investment to attend.” Many described it as a “selling point.”
With these and many other insights gleaned from the pilot, we created MAX to leverage the strengths and skillsets of law students, address their weaknesses, and acknowledge their pain points – those times they feel most beleaguered and overwhelmed by their finances on top of everything else that law school is throwing at them.
MAX is designed to provide a robust financial education incrementally, in smaller, easily digestible bursts. And to accommodate law students’ different knowledge bases and learning styles, MAX takes a building-block, multi-format approach that combines in-person workshops, online and virtual programming, and one-on-one personal counseling – all facilitated by our team of Accredited Financial Counselors (AFC®). In a six-week registration period earlier this summer, 120 law schools signed on as MAX schools in the program’s first year, and already over 2,500 students have established MAX online accounts.
MAX creates a path for every student to put every student on the path to success. Because it’s true: give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he’ll never be hungry again.
Guest Contributor: Billy Thompson, Communications Manager at AccessLex Institute