HANOVER — It’s a program offered at many Massachusetts high schools at the request of colleges. South Shore Tech seniors participated in the school’s eighth annual Credit For Life Fair at the school on Thursday, April 6.
“Colleges are finding that they were having kids come into college and racking up unbelievable amounts of debt before they even left college — and this wasn’t because of college debt, the problem was they were amassing credit card debt,” fair coordinator and Math Department Head Tina Palmer, told the studetns during the morning breakfast meeting in the cafeteria before the fair.
The students, required to attend school that day in professional attire, were then asked to recite the program’s mantra in unison:
“If I don’t have a plan for my money, someone else will.”
“That means that if you don’t budget every dollar that comes into your household, then — all of a sudden, two days after payday, you’re saying, ‘Oh, dude, I’ve got no money left and it’s another two weeks til payday,’” Palmer said. “You need to budget yourself. … You cannot live when you don’t have enough money to cover your costs.”
Her use of the term “dude” may have drawn some laughter, but by this time, SSVT students know this is serious business.
Students were graded on the project, right down to being scored — on a scale of 0-3 — on their professional attire, or lack thereof. Each student also started with a portfolio complete with budget, calculator and note pad.
Find their monthly net income on the budget and live within it. Each student had to stop at 14 booths — from career counseling and clothing to housing, insurance and life’s luxuries — before a mandatory stop at the Rockland Trust Credit Counseling booth to make sure their budgets balance. Students seeking a “second job” to balance their budgets were required to show a need.
“It’s expensive out there and it’s getting more expensive all the time,” Palmer said. “insurance costs are rising rapidly, housing is not far behind, so what we need you to understand is that not everyone is going to be what we consider successful at this budgeting process because some of you aren’t going to make enough money.”
She stressed that is where they need to have a talk with an adult who can help them figure out how to make enough money or cut back on some expenses.
Students opting to live with roommates were required to go through the booths as a group, because they would have to budget together with some shared costs.
“You’re going to make a lot of decisions today,” Palmer said. “You’re about 25 years old today so you need to decide am I living alone? Do I have one roommate, two roommates? Are you going to buy or lease a car?”
Superintendent-Director Thomas Hickey told the students the fair is the culmination of three programs throughout the year aimed at preparing his graduating class for life’s next chapters. The school hosted a career fair in the fall.
In January, the school observed Alumni Day, during which graduates came back to talk about what they are doing and their goals and tough decisions.
He used a lesson from an old driver’s ed class he took to sum up the goal of the day.
“The instructor said, ‘Don’t focus so much on right where the car is, if you want to be confident you’ve got to keep an eye on where you want the car to go,’” Hickey related. “We have been saying that to you all year.”
The SSVT fair is sponsored by Rockland Trust with 55 volunteers from the MBTA, AAA Southern New England, David B. Richardson Insurance, Housing Solutions for Southeastern Mass., United Way of Greater Plymouth County, AKKA Karate Studios, South Shore Bank, Rockland Federal Credit Union and the South Shore YMCA.