CASH+? Yes, Please!

Andover prides itself on a diverse student body: with students from 54 countries and numerous initiatives designed to support students from all backgrounds. One form of diversity, however, is significantly under-discussed at Andover—socioeconomic status. In the 2021-2022 State of the Academy (SOTA), 43.9 percent of students voted for socioeconomic status among the least talked about social identities at Andover. Moreover, the median household income of Andover students is $150,000 to $249,999 (over double the 2020 national household average of 67,521 dollars), and almost a third of students (27.4 percent) come from households that make over 500,000 dollars a year. 

Our school’s history as a private institution for elite education is one that merits critique. While Andover’s financial aid program monetarily supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds, many students express that socioeconomic divides are deeply felt across campus—almost 61.1 percent of students voted that social divides at Andover exist along socioeconomic lines. Yet, while students support broader discussion and education around class, financial literacy resources are difficult to access on campus. Courses, such as Math 440, the Financial Litearcy Seminar, are notoriously difficult to take due to high demand, and education surrounding finances and class are largely absent from EBI and any required curricula. 

But with 46 percent of students on financial aid, the many explicit socioeconomic divides underscore life as an Andover student. To neglect education around class and financial literacy would be to do a disservice to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds—disadvantaged students would receive less support in navigating the world beyond Andover financially, and privileged students would have less opportunities to expand their socioeconomic awareness. 

Andover has already proven itself capable and successful at implementing multilayered, expansive approaches to social education. Our sex ed program is a prime example. With consent education emphasized during freshman orientation, YES+ talks and events throughout the year, sex ed’s inclusion as a component of our mandatory PE requirement, healthy relationship initiatives at Brace, speaker events, and many others, students are exposed to a plethora of sources on consent and healthy relationship education. Our sex education here, compared to that of the schools many of us came from or the high schools we’d otherwise be attending, is truly comprehensive.

The mix of voluntary engagement (cupcakes and condoms) and mandatory learning (PE requirements, YES+ dorm talks) makes sex ed at Andover feel both involved and comprehensive. No matter what circles an Andover student moves in, whether they’re signed up for ten clubs or they hardly leave their dorm, they are bound to, at some point in their Andover career, receive robust sex ed.

This is the advantage of a multifaceted broad-coverage education. Efforts to expand access to a singular program often fall short because outreach is difficult and labor-intensive. Like the “swiss cheese” model of Covid-19 safety, each layer has its own benefits and drawbacks, but the more layers you stack, the more cohesive coverage becomes. Implementing a similar model for financial literacy education at Andover would not only ensure that all students would receive cohesive education around finances and necessary life skills, but would also encourage conversations around instituting more robust financial literacy education at Andover.

What this method looks like may be variable, but the flexibility of this approach makes it both efficient and practical for long-term use. This program’s potential is vast. As part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, the Academy could institute financial advising office for students, similar to our Academic Skills Center; incorporate financial literacy into common math curricula (just as sex ed is included in Bio 100); teach histories of class and economics in widely-taken history courses (such as History 100 and 200); increase course offerings around financial literacy; along with a multitude of additional ideas. 

Andover has an opportunity to tangibly better students’ preparation for the world beyond Andover. From navigating how to finance college to learning how the stock market works, a layered approach would not only instill in students necessary skills for making informed financial decisions in their futures, but would also offer critical education on the social forces that influence class and socioeconomic status. We come to Andover to be prepared for our futures. A broad, multifaceted, integration of financial literacy into our schooling would achieve this goal. To that, we say: yes, please!

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, Vol. CXLV.