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Professor wants to help students avoid debt at all costs with personal finance initiative

Carol Wolf
Carol Wolf is a professor in the School of Media and Journalism. Photo by Pam Gerolstein.

With the support of the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Office of University Development, Carol Wolf is embarking on a journey to start a personal financial information initiative. 

The initiative came to mind after Wolf was supposed to teach a personal finance beat course for reporters, but ended up teaching a personal finance course instead. Wolf said that many students believed in her teaching method and nominated her for the Student Undergraduate Teaching and Staff Award, which she won in 2018.  

“It's basically an attempt to provide students an education on personal finance," Kelly Patch, a research collaborator in the School of Media and Journalism who took Wolf's course, said. 

Patch said he noticed in his personal experience that students will leave the University with an amazing education, but do not have the knowledge to know what to do with their salary once they get a job. He said he is grateful that the initiative will show students how to manage their money for their lives after college.

“I don't want them to have a car loan, I don't want them to have credit card debt," Wolf said. "They can have a mortgage. I know that sounds like a silly goal, but I really think debt is what destroys most households’ personal finances." 

Wolf said she wants to help students avoid getting into debt at all costs through the initiative. She also hopes students will go into their communities and help individuals in rural areas learn to better budget their own incomes. 

She said she plans to partner with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention to set up workshops in these rural areas so students can then give one-on-one counseling to these families. 

“I think in terms of combating financial debt, this sounds like a good resource for keeping people's heads above water," said Sam Kirse, a junior psychology major.   

Many people do not think about how they are going to manage their money long-term, so Wolf — with help from colleagues David Hofmann, Carrie Harbinson, Kavita Hall and Mark Meares — plans to show students how to become financially successful by teaching them about resources available for future saving plans. 

Before becoming a professor at UNC, Wolf worked at Bloomberg News for 18 years, where she said she took confusing financial information and translated it so that the average consumer could understand it. She said that writing for an audience that wants to know what is going on but doesn't understand all of the businesses jargon helped her transition into teaching students. 

“She basically made it one of her personal missions to try and help as many kids as she could that went through the journalism school to understand how money works and how to be a good consumer in the United States,” Patch said. 


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