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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2020 Making An Impact

BECU Empowers WSU Vision for Financial Literacy

Story by Sue McMurray • Photo by WSU Photo Services

This spring, WSU sent close to 5,000 new graduates into the world. No matter where WSU graduates choose to live and launch their careers, successfully navigating the nation’s shifting economy, especially during a worldwide pandemic, requires a high degree of financial literacy.

A good understanding of economic indicators, specifically, interest rates, inflation, bond pricing, mortgages, and risk topics, will benefit young professionals as they make decisions that could have long-term consequences both professionally and personally. Yet current research shows students of all backgrounds lack a full understanding of a need for increased financial literacy overall.

“We are committed to increasing all WSU students’ financial literacy through Carson College offerings so they are as prepared as possible for the real world,” says David Whidbee, chair of the Department of Finance and Management Science.

Thanks to a recent agreement with BECU, the state’s largest credit union, WSU students across campus will have access to more financial literacy opportunities than ever before.


In 2019, BECU and WSU reached a five-year agreement to enhance students’ educational experience and University programming statewide. The agreement includes support for an expanded series of financial literacy and wellness programs, in addition to other lifelong learning activities, scholarships, and events.

For the Carson College, that means additional support for the annual Business Plan Competition and Power Breakfast events. It also means building on BECU’s previous investment toward helping the college develop a more financially literate society.


In 2017, BECU supported the college in the development of a financial education strategy with three unique tracks designed to increase all WSU students’ financial literacy, prepare finance majors for rewarding careers, and position WSU as the top choice for a financial education.

Track one delivers personal finance and financial literacy education to nonbusiness majors, something BECU is very passionate about. Track two provides innovative, real-world learning experiences for students preparing for careers in financial services. Financial coaching experience is a learning goal emphasized in both tracks, which will be possible with resources from BECU and the Dean’s Catalyst Fund, a college resource dedicated to program prototypes. A third track focuses on helping finance students develop financial analysis skills for careers requiring a firm knowledge of data analytics and financial decision-making.

The support stemmed from the credit union’s philosophy of “people helping people,” by providing financial aid to students who most need it and by expanding educational programs devoted to financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

“Because of BECU’s generosity and vision, we increased our personal finance class offerings and will be able to reach new milestones in service learning opportunities, for example, bringing in guest speakers and providing materials for those studying in the personal finance class,” says Whidbee.

“Nearly half of Americans cannot come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense without having to borrow or sell something. Our goals are to help reverse this trend by educating consumers on the importance of smart saving, spending, planning, and borrowing,” says Tom Berquist, BECU’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “By supporting financial planning and advanced education for students, we hope to introduce healthier financial habits at a key point in their lives that will help build a positive foundation leading to long-term success.”


BECU’s investment complements the college’s financial education resources already in place, such as the financial markets lab that is a key element of track three’s emphasis on financial analysis skills. The lab houses 12 Bloomberg terminals, 3 that are portable, that allow faculty and students access to the same tools used by the finance industry to research and analyze individual companies and financial markets.

With these resources readily accessible, students will hone their skills in financial modeling, tax and insurance issues, estate planning, banking, and behavioral finance. They will also guide other students studying personal finance, and plans are forming to add industry mentors.

“There will be a lot more customer-facing interaction, as well as a bit of psychology via behavioral finance topics,” says Whidbee.

“The idea is that our business majors interested in financial services will prepare for jobs in part by working with students who are more like the customers they plan to serve—and the students beyond the Carson College will learn from their peers,” says Chip Hunter, Carson College dean.

To learn more about supporting the Carson College’s Financial Literacy Program,
contact Micah Howard, Director of Development,
at or 509-335-7853.