Few colleges offer a financial planning program

Greater visibility of profession is needed for universities to commit

Sep 1, 2018 @ 6:00 am

By Greg Iacurci

The number of universities with financial planning programs is abysmally low. Only 4.5% of the roughly 2,400 four-year higher-education institutions in the U.S. offer a financial planning degree.

Observers say the trickle of new advisers entering the profession out of college each year is the result. Bigger programs may graduate anywhere from 20 to 50 students a year; smaller ones only five to 10. The CFP Board doesn't track these figures.

This trend is a problem for an industry in which a higher portion of financial planners is over age 70 than under 30.

"At UT Austin and Okflahoma University, I'm begging them to create a program. The demand is so great," said Nathan Harness, director of financial planning at Texas A&M University. "We have more jobs than we have students."

That means many firms are not able to find new talent and grow as quickly as they'd like.

Mary Kay Svedberg, CFP Board of Standards Inc.'s director of education, said she's working with more than 50 schools to build degree programs. That's definitely a start.

But even the schools with existing programs aren't filling seats to the extent they'd like.

"As a program director, my single biggest problem is getting to students young enough to convince them this is a field they want to go into," said Thomas Warschauer, director of financial planning programs at San Diego State University.

(More: CFP Board to launch new round of ads to build public awareness of designation)

Program directors said advisers can make the biggest impact by increasing the visibility of the profession to the public — especially high school students — through engagement at the local level, such as financial literacy initiatives. Adviser action also is needed to raise awareness of the profession among decision makers at universities who choose which programs to fund.

"It's going to take the profession to come in, engage the universities in their home states, and tell deans, university presidents and faculty members that this is important," Mr. Harness said. "Tell them you won't hire someone who doesn't come out of a financial planning program."

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