Texas A&M University will launch a new undergraduate degree in financial planning, while the University of Georgia will build out a new training lab and advisor residency program, thanks to grants awarded Monday from TD Ameritrade Institutional.

As part of its NextGen Scholarship and Grant Program, TD Ameritrade awarded a $50,000 established-program grant to the University of Georgia and, for the first time, a $25,000 emerging program grant to Texas A&M.

“With efforts like the NextGen Scholarship and Grant program, we can help fill the pipeline with individuals willing to lead our industry and continue the important work of caring for investors and their families,” said Tom Nally, president of TD Ameritrade Institutional. Nally noted that applications for the scholarship and grant program—which aims to distribute over $1 million over the next 10 years—were up over 90 percent from last year.

‘The new program grant is for those schools that want to get started, but might not have the means,” Nally says. Applicants are chosen on a number of criteria, including how they plan to use the money.

Texas A&M, which currently has a CFP Board-registered financial planning certificate program—received the first ever $25,000 award to help the college in developing a full-fledged undergraduate degree program.

‘This is the beginning. Our hope is—just like Texas Tech, just like Georgia or any of these other programs—to grow financial planning nationwide,” says Dr. Nathan Harness, assistant finance professor at Texas A&M. “But we want to be one of the top ten programs.”

The school in in phase one of launching the program, with the degree, which will be housed in Texas A&M’s Agricultural Economics department, still about 15-18 months away from completion, Harness says. With a certificate program already underway, the next step is to develop a financial planning specialization for current and incoming Agricultural Economics students.  After that, Harness hopes to roll out the stand-alone degree.

Harness says the decision to house the program in a consumer science field allows for more unique courses in sales training and entrepreneurial skills. “The colleges of business don’t tend to have the same flexibility in their degree programs more applied fields do,” he added.

Currently Texas A&M has four faculty members teaching financial planning classes, including Harness, another full-time professor and two adjunct professors. “I think we’re well-poised to become one of the top quality programs,” Harness says.

For financial planning programs already at the top, such as the University of Georgia’s Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics department, it’s all about constant improvement and investment in the future. The $50,000 established program grant awarded to the school will go to develop a “Financial Communication & Training Lab,” where students can role-play and practice their verbal and non-verbal communication skills with clients.

The financial planning department is looking to install video recording equipment and big-screen TVs so students can watch themselves and their peers during the sessions. “We’ve had feedback from advisors saying that while the students are technically top-notch, they’re sometimes missing basic client interaction skills,” says John Grable, professor at the University of Georgia.   

Additionally, the university plans to use part of the grant to establish a “practitioner-in-residence” program where local advisors from the greater Atlanta area will serve as rotating guest lecturers and mentors for students, providing feedback and practical advice. “Rather than me telling students, ‘hey, you need to work on your writing skills,’ let that practitioner in residence mentor the students, lead the students.”

About 60 percent of the $50,000 grant will go toward building the lab, while 40 percent will go toward funding the residency program, according to Joseph Goetz, associate professor at University of Georgia.

In addition to the grants, TD Ameritrade also awards 10 scholarships worth $5,000 each to students enrolled in financial planning programs. Monday’s winners were:

- Mariah Bausch, Kansas State University

- Peter Blehl, William Paterson University

-Kwame Boakye, University of Akron

-Anne Marie Ihling, Virginia Polytechnic Institute

-Timi Jorgensen, Utah Valley University

-Lauren Loucks, Utah Valley University

-Patrick Portman, Western Kentucky University

-Tyler Quatraro, University of Oregon

-Trent Strang ,Olivet (Miss.) College

-Catherine Traylor, Louisiana State University

TD Ameritrade hosted the scholarship and grant winners at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, where led by Nally, they rang the closing bell in an effort to bring more awareness around  financial planning and career opportunities for NextGen advisors in the industry.