Going to college means independence and the freedom to manage your own schedule, but it also means financial responsibility, from student loans to managing monthly and daily expenses.
On the first day of classes Monday, the Hellyer Center of Indian Hills was buzzing with activity. Downstairs - an activities fair. Upstairs - the Life Store, a unique, interactive game that teaches students new and old how to budget and handle their finances in college.
"Step one in this process is educating them on how to borrow correctly and then it makes them think into the future," said Chris Bowser, Director of Financial Assistance at Indian Hills. "We assign all of them an age, we tell them to think they're 28, it's ten years down the road for them and really think about their monthly budget and how it would impact their spouse if they have one, their kids if they have them and so we think it's a really important piece of what we do for financial literacy for all our students here at Indian Hills."
The program works similar to The Game of Life. Students go around to several stations, encountering financial experiences they will likely have in real life. They have to figure out how to manage their budget for the job and financial status they are given. At the end of the program, all students that have money leftover were entered into a drawing for a $100 Target gift card.
Bowser said IHCC thought the program is a helpful tool because not only is it hands-on, but many students come into college not knowing how much money it takes to support a person or a family.
"We should have had this 15 years ago when we got married," said incoming medical student Tony Garmoe.
Tony and his wife Angela are going back to school together, with their son also registered as a freshman. They're taking advantage of all Indian Hills has to offer, including learning from the Life Store program. And their lesson to others, it's never too late to learn life skills, and never too late for an education.
"Don't stop," Tony said. "We've been in the real world and without an education nowadays it's tough to do."
The Life Store program is run by the Iowa College Access Network, who brings the activity to schools across the state to teach financial literacy.
All together, 60 students participated in the program Monday. Bowser said Indian Hills hopes to make it an annual activity at the start of each school year.