College may increase efforts to teach financial literacy

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Real estate coordinator lobbied for the passage of House Bill 399 authorizing universities to teach the course.

By Geoffrey Hovatter                                                

Dr. Melissa Weathersby, coordinator for real estate, made a presentation to the college administration April 23 on why the college should require a financial literacy class.

She presented research from her dissertation “The Assessment of the Financial Literacy of Undergraduates at One Community College in Texas.”

This was part of the requirements for the Ph.D., she received from Walden University.

She said the college administration plans to explore ideas to include financial literacy instruction at the college after her presentation.

“Half of it was the curriculum for teaching and then the other part was for just the findings,” Weathersby said.

“I know Dr. Vela cares about our students. He was very much like ‘OK, how can we get this incorporated into some of our courses or even have maybe at the advocacy center?’” Weathersby said

President Robert Vela was not available for an interview, but public relations Director Vanessa Torres described his opinion in an email that read, “He was very impressed with the research provided.”

She wrote that Vela would like to find a way to increase what the college is already doing concerning financial literacy.

Weathersby believes financial literacy should be taught in a required course.

“It should be mandatory as a course, not just a couple of chapters or just the advocacy center,” she said. “I think having support at the advocacy center would be great in addition to the class but not in place of.”

The idea for the dissertation came when she noticed how uneducated community college students were on finances.

Weathersby said she knew that there was a growing problem with students learning financial literacy and wanted to help find a way to fix it.

“Nobody knows where to start the discussion,” she said.

Weathersby collected her data by sending questionnaires to 879 students at a community college in Texas. She received 170 responses. She preferred not to name the college.

The students had to answer 31 questions about their knowledge in financial literacy.

The responses were startling, she said.

“It showed that there is definitely a lack of understanding in four different categories — income, savings and investing, spending and credit, and then just money management,” Weathersby said.

“Seventy percent of those students did not make a 60 or better,” she said.

Weathersby said students struggled the most with money management.

In one instance, she found that students had trouble budgeting money on a consistent basis.

Saving money was another problem.

Some students in the survey did not know how to balance a checkbook.

Weathersby said she believes a class like this could go a long way toward helping students prepare for a financially sound future.

“Let’s talk about real world, why it’s important that you balance your checkbook or why is it important that you don’t write your PIN number on your debit card,” she said.

Her overall goal with the presentation is to have mandatory financial literacy classes provided for incoming freshman at all Alamo Colleges.

In 2011, Weathersby, served on a committee that drafted Texas House Bill HB 399.

The bill, signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Perry, allows four year universities to provide financial literacy classes, covering specific topics to help prepare students to be self-supporting adults.

She suggested the bill at a meeting of the Alamo Colleges Leadership for Success.

During the meeting then-Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, the vice chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board at that time, discussed legislation with the group.

Weathersby said she raised her hand and brought up the topic of why financial literacy was not part of the college curriculum.

Castro then told her to get in touch with his staff to see if they could change that.

Soon after, she was a part of the group drafting the bill and lobbying for its passage in the Texas House.

For more information, contact Weathersby at 210-486-1407 or email


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