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LRAP Cares | Volunteering to Help Students Master their Financial Futures.

LRAP News February 28, 2019

LRAP culture is built on the DNA of care. Our primary motivation for working with colleges and universities all over the nation stems from our belief in the transformative power of higher education – in its value as an investment. We believe college is, ultimately, worth it. That culture of caring extends into our immediate communities. From our Bloomington office, we recently had the chance for a unique volunteering opportunity we felt was right up our alley.

We worked with The Franklin Initiative, a project of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, and volunteered our time to work with Edgewood Junior High School students through an amazing learning exercise, called The Reality Store®, designed to help those students as they make plans for (and develop expectations about) the educational and financial realities of their futures.

The Franklin Initiative provides career awareness and workforce development services for youth in Bloomington in Monroe County, Indiana. They work with teachers and schools to offer real-world experiences that get young people excited about future education and careers by helping them realize the relevance and importance of their education to life and careers after graduation.

The Reality Store® is a fun simulation that helps 7th and 8th graders connect academic achievement with the kind of lifestyle they envision for themselves after graduation. Students are assigned salaries based on their actual GPA. Then, they proceed from table to table (staffed by volunteers) to buy housing, transportation, groceries, insurance, furniture, clothing, electronics, vacations, utilities, child care, pets, electronics, and other real life elements. Similar initiatives exist in other parts of the country as well.

Our staff members who did the volunteer work were surprised by these young people and noticed some real “aha” moments. A few reflections:

“What surprised me most was how many of the students prioritized money over time. Many students were willing to take on an extra part-time job (or two) to be able to afford luxuries. Similarly, once the students had visited all of the booths and had money left over, they commented on how they wished they had more left – even when the remainder was a realistic amount. My favorite ‘aha’ moment of the day was one student who made the comment, ‘This is why my parents are so stressed!'” – Melinda Pettijohn, LRAP Marketing Manager.

“The recurring ‘aha’ moment that students had was in thinking about the trade-offs between having a nice car (also generally accompanied by higher gas and insurance costs), and a nice home/tech accessories/etc. that they also wanted. My hope is that, either way, they developed a bit of empathy, and now have a greater appreciation for why their parents don’t all drive Ferraris and Escalades.” – Josh David, LRAP VP of Student Services.

Pre and Post survey results for the exercise generally show the impact of the Reality Store® on students’ perceptions regarding the relationship between school, career, and life after graduation:

  • 88% of students reported that they enjoyed participating in the Reality Store®.
  • The number of students who plan to pursue postsecondary education increased from 87% to 92%.
  • The number of students who plan to complete at least a four year college degree increased from 76% to 82%, and the number of students who plan to complete a graduate degree increased from 41% to 54%
  • The number of students who say they “have no idea” what level of education they will achieve decreased from 9% to 5%.

No matter what, LRAP staff were happy to donate our time to provide insight into the educational and financial realities of life.

Much of this insight comes from what we see everyday as we work with both prospective students and graduates from our partner institutions who are reaping the benefits of having been awarded LRAP by their college or university.

We have found that anxiety around managing student loans and desires to develop accurate expectations about lifestyle after graduation both have a powerful impact on the enrollment choices that future college students and their families make.

That’s why we help our partners make this powerful promise:

“If income after graduation is below a certain amount, LRAP will help you pay your student or parent educational loans.”

Curious about bringing LRAP awards to your campus? Check out some of our recent case studies.