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Journalism class aims to teach students financial skills for adulthood

The course, MEJO 390: Special Skills in Mass Communication, is in the UNC School of Media and Journalism, but it is open for all students to learn how to manage their budget.

“Personal finance reporting is a growth area in journalism,” Chris Roush, founding director of the Carolina Business News Initiative, said.

Roush said he thought the school needed a class in personal finance journalism, so students could be exposed to an area where lots of jobs are forming.

Roush said he met Carol Wolf, the professor of the course and a visiting lecturer in business journalism, when she moved to the area, and he brought her to the school's attention.

Carol Wolf said the MEJO 390 class is for leaning about financial survival skills. She said a journalist’s job is to protect the consumer, and this course teaches how students can protect themselves.

Wolf said the class learns about how to budget money, the pros and cons of mortgages and the stock market. Students will be introduced to credit scores and how credit scores are affected by behavior, as well.

“It’s not just doing numbers and facts,” Wolf said. “It’s like a personalized personal finance column.”

According to Wolf, students not only learn how to save money, but how to protect themselves wherever they live. In addition, students will be able to look at the differences in housing prices in different areas and how those will affect their personal finances.

“Journalists look behind the numbers,” she said.

She said it is an opportunity for students of any major to take a finance course taught by a journalist.

Stephanie Lamm, a student currently taking this class, said the course is kind of like a seminar. She said Wolf goes around and talks to everyone about their personal goals.

“It’s just really good to get students thinking about what kind of lifestyle I’m going to live after graduation,” Lamm said.

The class teaches students how to be smart when spending money, Lamm said, and the assignments are very personalized.

“She modifies her lesson to fit each person,” she said. “It’s not taught from the perspective of here’s how you write a story about personal finance. It’s taught like here’s what you need to know about personal finance to be a smart adult and know how to make money, save money and spend responsibly.”

Lamm said there was an assignment this semester where each student had to pick a house they wanted to buy.

Molly Hair, another student in the course, said students research topics discussed in class on their own time.

“We researched a lot about renting versus buying homes, which was really interesting because we have it ingrained into our minds that part of the American dream is home ownership,” Hair said.

Lamm said this class is good for students who will graduate soon.

“I feel a big relief knowing that I’ll be prepared when that time comes,” Lamm said.

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