An increasing number of universities that teach financial planning are opening clinics in which college students offer planning services to people who live in surrounding communities.
Of the 336 such academic planning programs currently registered with the CFP Board, about 12 have begun using such clinics, according to Alan Goldfarb, the board’s chairman.
“The public comes in and [gets] plans written by the students under the guidance of the faculty,” Goldfarb says. “That’s how law students get their experience. The same is true in medicine. If all universities participated in [these programs], it would not only help the universities, it would help the students.”
The clinics are helping schools address a widespread issue in planning education: the fact that students need much more in-depth, real-world experience than they currently get. Given the low number of open positions for new financial planning graduates, these clinics can also help planning students set themselves apart in a competitive job market.
University of Georgia runs a clinic for its financial planning students through a partnership with students from the university’s law school. Divorcing couples from the surrounding community frequently make use of the clinic to receive advice from both financial planning and law students, according to John Grable, director of UGA’s financial planning program.
“It’s not that the students are in there flinging advice,” Grable says. “Faculty are there, making sure they are not giving bad advice.”
Working in the clinic provides a necessary complement to classes that teach students more technical skills, like trading stocks and bonds, he says. “It’s working with real people,” Grable says. “By the third or fourth meeting there is that real bonding that is happening. That’s what’s really valuable for our students.”