Communications Office: Stephen Mease
BURLINGTON, VT.— Three high schools have been selected to take part in the new Vermont High School Financial Literacy Pilot Program, created to study the effectiveness of highly trained teachers providing financial literacy education in Vermont high schools. The pilot program is the result of a partnership between state government entities, non-profit corporations and financial institutions.
The new program will be managed by Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy, in partnership with Burlington High School, Union 32 High School in Montpelier, and Fair Haven High School over the course of two academic years.
"Financial literacy is a needed skill for all students," stated Fair Haven Union High School Principal Brett Blanchard. "We are proud to have an excellent existing program that will, thanks to Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy, expand and remain at the forefront of preparing students to understand personal finance and control their futures."
In order to be selected for the program, schools must have established personal finance education as a graduation requirement or as a highly promoted elective and have well trained teachers in the subject to deliver personal finance education consistent with the Jump$tart Coalition's National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education. The schools are also required to test the personal finance knowledge and behaviors of students who take personal finance courses over two academic years, and compare the test results with results from students who have not taken the classes.
"Young people graduating from high school are quickly thrust into real-life decisions regarding arranging for college loans, renting an apartment, making car payments, and affording health care," said Amy Mellencamp, principal of Burlington High School. "The more our high school students gain financial literacy knowledge, strategies, and an understanding of what it takes to balance personal budgets now, the more likely students will be able to function successfully and independently in the years ahead."
John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, explains that classroom opportunities are needed to provide basic information to help students make wise and informed decisions about their immediate and longer term financial life, including credit and credit cards, debt and student loans, and major purchases like vehicles and housing. High school students should also receive instruction on investing, risk management, the connection between income and careers, and the importance of saving for retirement and for a rainy day fund.
"Within the classroom we are focusing on money management, planning, saving and investing; students are really enthused to learn about how to make their money grow," said George Cook, a business and finance teacher at U-32 High School in Montpelier who attended the 2012 VT Teachers Financial Literacy Summer Institute at Champlain College. "They now understand that even the average person can invest and earn compound interest."
Personal finance education is "addressing their immediate life," he continued, "This is a wake up call for students entering adulthood. They've realized that they have to be financially independent, on their own, and this has opened their eyes to the cost of living. Having students figure out how to organize their finances in order to be in good shape down the road has created a huge sense of enthusiasm in the classroom."
A successful outcome of the pilot would be proof that personal finance instruction positively impacts the knowledge and behavior of students that participate in the classes when compared to students that do not take part in a personal finance course. These students should graduate with personal finance knowledge and should be able to make smarter choices about saving, investing and spending, especially as many of them head to college or begin life in the workforce.
Pelletier noted that the goal of the pilot program is to compare the knowledge and behaviors of high school students that take a personal finance course taught by highly trained educators with a control group of high school students that have not received classroom instruction on this important topic.
"With the information we gather in this project, we hope to prove that a personal finance class taught by a highly trained teacher has a material positive impact on the knowledge and behaviors of the high school students who receive this instruction. We hope that this pilot will show our state and our nation that it is important to train our teachers on personal finance topics and even more important have students graduate high school that are financially savvy," Pelletier said.
High school students nationwide received an average of 52% on the Jump$tart Coalition's most recent Personal Financial Literacy survey. When Cook's students start their personal finance training at U-32 High School, their performance numbers are almost identical. Upon completing a course in financial literacy, the learning curve is enormous; students dramatically increase their knowledge. For many high school students, his class is the first time they have ever learned about personal finance.
All of the personal finance education teachers at each of the Pilot Program schools have attended the Center of Financial Literacy's Vermont Teachers Financial Literacy Summer Institute during the past two summers, or will attend the 2013 CFL Summer Institute.
The program's overall objective is to promote the need to make financial literacy curricula available to all high schools in Vermont and the Nation. "Vermont is one of the national leaders is this area and has the potential to create a great model for the entire country," said Ted Beck, president & CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) in Denver, Colo. at the program launch last April.
At the public launch of this initiative last year, Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin stated, "This is so important and it is a great opportunity for Vermont to be a leader in financial literacy education."
"We would not allow a student to get in the driver's seat of a car without requiring driver's education, and yet we allow our citizens to enter the complex financial world without any financial education. An uneducated individual armed with a credit card and access to a mortgage can be just as dangerous to themselves and their community as a person with no training who is given a car to drive," Pelletier added.
Champlain's Center for Financial Literacy's Vermont Teachers Financial Literacy Summer Institute, sponsored by Merchants Bank, will enter its final year of a three-year program to provide graduate-level education program for more than 100 Vermont high and middle school teachers at a five-day training course in understanding their personal financial situations and teaching financial literacy in their classrooms. There are only a three other collegiate institutions in the entire country that offer similar training. This program will run June 24-28. The Center will accept applications through May 17. Visit http://www.champlain.edu/centers-of-excellence/center-for-financial-literacy/cfl-programs/vermont-teachers-financial-literacy-summer-institute .html for more information.
The Center for Financial Literacy (CFL) at Champlain College was launched in December 2010 to address the lack of financial sophistication among our citizens that contributed to the financial crisis that began in 2008. The CFL is a partnership among several financial institutions, non-profit entities and governmental agencies. Champlain College hopes to increase financial literacy in classrooms across our nation, ensure college students graduate with the skills to make sound decisions about spending, credit and investments, and help adults navigate difficult financial situations like buying a home and saving for retirement. The Center advocates for more financial education opportunities at the local, state and national level. John Pelletier of Stowe, Director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, is a former chief operating officer and chief legal officer at some of the largest asset management firms in the U.S. For more information visit http://www.champlain.edu/centers-of-excellence/center-for-financial-literacy