opinion

COLUMN: IU should trade math class for personal finance



optaxes041519

Did you do your taxes yourself this glorious tax season? Did you do them with the help of the internet? Do you understand tax code or how new tax laws will impact you? If you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t, and that’s not good.

IU needs to stop requiring math classes like M118: Finite Mathematics and M119: Brief Survey of Calculus I, and instead offer an alternative like personal finance. A personal finance course would better prepare students for real-world math issues, like doing taxes and creating budgets, that current math courses don’t help with.

In the United States, tax law is confusing. Right now, we’re seeing changes that are leaving people wondering why they’re paying the IRS instead of getting a refund. Easier access to financial literacy resources could curb confusion about the nuances of filing taxes in the US.

Requiring a personal finance class at IU in lieu of a math class like finite or calculus is a perfect solution to this problem for students.

Personal finance courses could help with more than just understanding taxes, too. A course that explains ways to create budgets, save for retirement, make wise financial investments, help understand financial law and more could be valuable at a time when student debt across the U.S. is in the trillions of dollars, with an average student graduating with more than $37,000 in debt.

If IU had a personal finance requirement for first-semester freshmen, it could help students avoid being in debt for decades after taking out loans without understanding their terms, or avoid the possibility of going to jail by doing taxes improperly.

A personal finance course could teach students little-known ways to save money on their taxes, and there’s a financial incentive for IU in this situation — if alumni are saving money thanks to their alma mater, they can give money back as a way of saying thanks.

This isn’t to say that math courses aren’t important, just that students would be better served by taking a course that will apply to every post-grad life, regardless of major.

No one can deny understanding that math is important, but with today’s student debt crisis and decreasing financial literacy among young people, it’s more important than ever to prepare students to take on real-world problems. Understanding taxes comes before understanding permutations. Sorry calculus and finite.

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