Rising student loan debt has ushered in a golden age of financial literacy programs aimed at students. But as the irrepressible journalist and expert on the failures of the personal finance industry Helaine Olen writes in 2012’s Pound Foolish, the problem with the rise of financial literacy is that “no one has been able to prove financial literacy actually works.”


If financial literacy served its supposedly intended purpose, it would encourage people to use fewer banking products and probably never take out a loan, including for higher education; it might even encourage students to drop out of college or start a mass mobilization to bring down the untenable cost of tuition. But browsing iGrad’s offerings reveals this is the opposite of the message. Under the website’s “topics” are six subheadings: Spending Less, Managing Your Debt, Repaying Student Loans, Types of Aid, Job Search, and Resume and Cover Letters. The message is clear: cut back on wasteful spending––hey, maybe even take out more loans––but whatever you do, don’t cut back on your loan payments!

Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein knows the financial is political.