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William Paterson financial planning major places in U.S. Top 10 list

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William Paterson University's financial planning program has been named one of the Top 10 in the country by Financial Planning magazine.

The Wayne-based university's financial planning major has four faculty members and 30 undergraduate students in its Bachelor of Science in business administration/financial planning and certificate program. The program was started just three years ago, when Sam Basu, dean of the university's Cotsakos College of Business, hired Lukas Dean to start a program that would give students the kind of training that would thoroughly prepare them for jobs in the industry.

"We want financial planning firms to hire our students over our competitor schools, so we constantly seek feedback from local professionals about what skills, knowledge and attributes they want their interns and new hires to have," Dean said. "Then, we find ways to implement their needs into our existing curriculum."

In 2010, the first year the school competed, William Paterson students won first place overall and first place in the Knowledge Bowl and Presentation events at the National Financial Planning Challenge, a competition sponsored by the board of the College for Financial Planning, the Financial Planning Association, Ameriprise and the Academy of Financial Services. This year, the school tied for second place overall with Kansas State, and also won second place in the Knowledge Bowl.

The program puts a great deal of emphasis on practical experience, Dean said: "We want our students to be 'shovel-ready' when they hit the work force."

The students get applied knowledge as well as theoretical, working on a trading floor at the business school and learning on software in use at the big financial firms. The school brings in guest speakers each month to expose the students to professionals in the industry.

In choosing the Top 10 schools, the magazine spoke to veteran planners and industry leaders and considered the universities' pass rates. According to the College for Financial Planning, the number of financial planning programs has risen 15 percent in the last 18 months.

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