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Business Officer Magazine

Business Intel

A roundup of short news articles and useful resources for business officers

Ways to Help Women Achieve Financial Well-Being

Women are a greater economic powerhouse than ever before. For the first time, they are outpacing men at every level of educational attainment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women also currently make up 47 percent of the workforce, and will cross the 50 percent mark by 2018.

As women's earning power increases, so does their need for personalized financial advice. The good news is that generally women are quite interested in knowing more about financial planning. In fact, the recent TIAA-CREF Financial Advice Study found that women are significantly more likely than men to take action after receiving such advice.

Obstacles, Opportunities

Despite this willingness to act, women are often uncertain about whom they can trust, and they view their busy schedules as an obstacle to creating a financial plan. (See figure, "Responses to Financial Advice Survey.") As a result, many seek counsel from family and friends rather than a financial adviser.

Figure: Responses to Financial Advice Survey

The survey, which was conducted by an independent research firm, polled a random sample of more than 1,000 adults nationwide on their attitudes, preferences, and behaviors about receiving financial advice. Results also found that 66 percent of the employees participating in the survey indicated that they trust the financial advice provided in the workplace. This presents real opportunities for employers who want to help put their staff on a path toward achieving financial well-being.

But, when it comes to financial advice, one size does not fit all. Employers must first be willing to meet their female employees where they are (in the workplace or with online tools, for example), as well as provide them with information that is relevant to their needs and is shared through the right channels.

Mindful Messaging

Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking about ways to tailor workplace financial planning services for a female audience:

  • Women face unique challenges. Women typically live longer than men and often take themselves out of the workforce due to family and caregiving responsibilities. Ultimately, these factors may reduce their retirement savings income. In addition, women's own misperceptions can present major obstacles: Nearly half of women surveyed believe they can't afford personalized, objective advice; and one third believe they don't have time to look for the information they need. At the same time, more than half worry they won't have sufficient savings to retire comfortably.
  • Women are receptive. Despite the challenges they face, women are ready and willing to improve their financial well-being. Nearly 90 percent of females surveyed took some type of action after receiving financial advice, ranging from saving more to rebalancing their retirement portfolios. In addition, 61 percent of women are likely to change or decrease their spending to save more. Only 50 percent of men responded that they would do the same.
  • Women want information that is relevant and fits within their lifestyle. Women are responsive to information and advice that addresses their needs and concerns. But in order to drive change, the advice must not only be relevant, but also delivered in a way that fits within their lifestyle. According to the survey, women prefer to receive financial advice in person and tend to look toward their peers for information. 

By approaching women in a comfortable, relatable way, employers can give them the tools they need to help them become financially secure and successful.

Recognizing this, TIAA-CREF created the Woman to Woman Financial Empowerment Series, which comprises a number of workshops developed by women for women. All the workshops are proving to be highly effective and are well-received by female employees. Most importantly, nearly all attendees say they are committed to taking action to meet their savings and retirement goals, with 74 percent of participants having increased contributions to their retirement plans after participating in one or more of the workshops.

Encouraging employees to make appropriate retirement and financial plans is good business practice. While employers aren't always the first stop for financial advice, they are a credible and trusted resource. When employees have access at work to programs such as the Woman to Woman series, they can gain important insight into their own financial plans and make adjustments based on sound advice from financial professionals.

RESOURCE LINK For additional information on the Woman to Woman Financial Empowerment Series, go to

SUBMITTED BY Cathy McCabe, managing director, TIAA-CREF

Turning Financial Advice Into Action

TIAA-CREF created its Woman to Woman Financial Empowerment Series to help colleges and universities provide women the tools they need to focus on and help them achieve financial well-being. That's why, last winter, NACUBO invited TIAA-CREF to present sessions at the Women's Leadership Institute (coproduced by members of the Council of Higher Education Management Associations). According to Marta Perez Drake, vice president for professional development at NACUBO, the WLI workshops "empowered attendees, giving the women the realization that they were not alone and that they could take action, even in small steps. The sessions at WLI were packed-and exceeded our expectations in every way."

(For more details on ways colleges and universities are assisting staff with financial planning, specifically with regard to retirement funds, see "On Track & On Time,"  and "Draw Them In," in the April 2013 issue of Business Officer.   

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By The Numbers

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Recommendations for Reducing Student Loan Debt

In response to increasing concern about student debt levels, rising default rates, and the overall focus on college costs, NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators) convened a task force in 2012 to study the issue and make relevant recommendations. The committee was charged with examining current trends and developing ideas aimed at improving the system during all stages of borrowing.

Fast Fact

On April 17, a tour of one of the most innovative and state-of-the-art libraries—the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, at North Carolina State University—will showcase the technology and design innovation behind a facility being touted as "the academic library with the widest array of technologies in the country."

"We know that borrowing has increased in proportion to grant aid, and that students and families are now shouldering a greater portion of the cost of college through loans," says Charles Knepfle, director of student financial aid at Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, and task force chair.

It's clear, says NASFAA President and CEO Justin Draeger, "that even manageable amounts of borrowing can spiral out of control when students are not academically prepared for college, repayment tools and information are not readily accessible, and schools have little to no way to curb excessive borrowing." Based on its research and discussion, the task force developed eight recommendations to help student borrowers now and in the future. Specifically, the task force recommends that:

  • Institutions be allowed to limit borrowing based on institutional, degree, or program level, while retaining the authority to allow students-on a case-by-case basis-to borrow up to the federal annual and aggregate limits.
  • The federal government consider how subsidies could be better targeted, possibly by making income-based-repayment the automatic repayment plan for all borrowers.
  • The federal government permit the interest rate on student loans to vary, based on the year the student takes out the loan, but then be fixed at that rate for the life of the loan. Also, that loan origination fees be eliminated.
  • Parent PLUS loan borrowers be held to a more restrictive underwriting standard.
  • Congress mandate the creation of a single Web portal where students can go to easily access information about federal, private, and institutional loans.
  • The Department of Education standardize the process for placing a student in the various repayment plans.
  • The Department of Education transition its financial awareness counseling tool into an entrance and exit counseling module that would satisfy legislative requirements.
  • The regulatory burden of private lender lists be reduced, by requiring only the following elements: adherence to a code of conduct, disclosure to families of the criteria used to develop a preferred lender list, and assurance that families may choose any lender not on the list.

RESOURCE LINK For more details on the NASFAA student loan recommendations, go to

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Nine Campuses Achieve "Bike-Friendly" Status

The League of American Bicyclists has designated nine new schools for recognition in its "Bicycle Friendly Universities" list. This brings the list total to 44 institutions in 25 states. Joining the group of transportation ecofriendly universities are the following: Eastern Mennonite University, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Rochester Institute of Technology, State University of New York at Buffalo, University of Denver, University of Kentucky, University of Utah, and Yale University. The Bicycle Friendly University program recognizes higher education institutions for promoting and providing a more bicycle-friendly campus for students, staff, and visitors. The program also provides planning and technical assistance to create great campuses for cycling.

Get Ready for More Emerging Technologies

The 2013 Horizon Report, produced by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative and the New Media Consortium, describes six areas of emerging technology-and their respective time lines-that will have significant influence on higher education over the next one to five years. Cited for 2013 are:

  • One year or less to adoption: Massively open online courses; tablet computing.
  • Two to three years to adoption: Games and gamification; learning analytics.
  • Four to five years to adoption: 3D printing; wearable technology.

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National Academy of Engineering Honors Olin College

The team responsible for creating the engin-eering curriculum at Olin College, Needham, Massachusetts, was awarded the 2013 Bernard M. Gordon Prize, along with $500,000, by the National Academy of Engineering (NEA). The honorees: Richard Miller, David Kerns, and Sherra Kerns, accepted the prize at the annual NEA Awards ceremony, on February 19, in Washington, D.C. The college, which accepted its first class in 2002, was conceived as a way to redefine engineering as a profession of innovation.

The Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education is awarded "to engineering educators whose work uses new modalities and experiments in education to develop effective engineering leaders." Half of the cash award is granted to the recipients; half will go to Olin, in order, according to the NEA, "to support the continued development, refinement, and dissemination of innovation."

The F.W. Olin Foundation recruited Richard Miller, Olin College's visionary founding president, as the college's first employee, in 1999. He later recruited the husband-and-wife Kerns team-both were engineering professors at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee-to develop Olin's program. David Kerns Jr., founding provost, was responsible for determining the qualifications for and recruiting Olin's first faculty. He led the development of an innovative curriculum, student life, library, and information services-and helped set the college's faculty culture of student-centered, project-based education.

Sherra Kerns, founding vice president for innovation and research, guided the development of the faculty vision at Olin College of Engineering. She also created the college's intellectual property policy and led efforts that resulted in institutional and professional accreditation of all programs.

  • Student-centered approach. What is the key to keeping students interested in engineering? Sherra Kerns says, "Let them know that you are interested in their learning, and in so doing, give them responsibility for their own learning-and let them know you are backing them up." It's a fixable problem, Miller told the Washington Post in an interview after the awards event, "and we believe that the clue to getting the answer resides in choosing their own paths to learning," such as letting them choose their own problems to solve in math class, for example.
  • Gender parity. According to Sherra Kerns, Olin has achieved very close to gender parity-a goal established early in the college's creation. Often the only female in engineering, Kerns says, "I actually had to learn to operate in an all-male environment." But, being called on to start a program from scratch offered the opportunity to do better, and Kerns set a permanent goal for achieving a gender-balanced community. "Today," she says, "we graduate a higher percentage of women than any other coed engineering program in the country."
  • Innovative approaches. "Perhaps the most important contribution the Gordon Prize recipients made," wrote Joe Hunter, Olin's director of communications, "was the creation of a profoundly inclusive and collaborative process of experimentation and decision making, involving students in every aspect of the invention of the institution. This is illustrated by the decision in 2001 to recruit 30 young students to spend a year as 'partners' in residence with the faculty in conducting many experiments together before establishing the first curriculum."

The new learning model and the inclusive process that produced it, explains Hunter, "are attracting substantial international attention. In the past three years, about 200 universities have visited Olin to benchmark and explore ways of initiating major changes in their own curriculum."

In presenting the prize to the three Olin leaders, NAE President Charles M. Vest noted, "Olin serves as an exemplar for the rest of the engineering world as a collaborative agent for change."

First opening its doors to students in 2002, Olin College is known for its student-centered and collaborative approach to innovation.
First opening its doors to students in 2002, Olin College is known for its student-centered and
collaborative approach to innovation.

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