Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy Launches Task Force to Tackle Financial Illiteracy In Vermont

Center Gives State a “D” on National Report Card

Burlington, Vt. — Aiming to strengthen Vermonters’ financial futures, Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy (CFL) today launched an initiative to help policymakers understand the dimensions of the financial illiteracy problem in the state and to make recommendations to set all Vermonters on the path to prosperity.

“Many Vermonters are in a fiscal funk,” says John Pelletier, director of Champlain College’s CFL. “Some are suffering continuing effects from the Great Recession, others never really learned the basics of personal financial planning in school or in life. And some are in for a rude awakening when it comes time to pay for college, buy a home or retire in this brave new world of self-funded retirement.”

“We owe it to our fellow citizens to better prepare them for their financial lives in this increasingly complex world of savings and spending and financial survival,” emphasizes Pelletier.

The Vermont Financial Literacy Task Force is composed of 19 people from education, government, business, and the non-profit sector, with deep knowledge about the fiscal challenges Vermonters face. Bob Allen, president and CEO of the Windham Foundation, will chair the task force.

“We believe our work is critical to Vermont’s continued prosperity,” says Allen. “Vermonters need the skills and tools to take control of their financial lives. Ultimately, we expect to materially increase the financial knowledge of all our citizens and enable them to effect positive change in their personal and professional lives.”

In 2013, Champlain College’s CFL published a national financial literacy report card covering all 50 states’ high schools. Vermont scored a “D” because there is no personal finance requirement in high schools. Seven states attained an “A” score, including Georgia, Missouri, Utah and Virginia.

Recent data about Vermonters’ financial well-being are troubling.

  • 63% of Vermont college seniors graduated in 2012 with student loan debt that averaged $28,299, which was the 13th highest state student loan debt average in the nation (Source: “Student Loan Debt and the Class of 2012” December, 2013)
  • 46% of Vermonters have a subprime credit rating (Source: “CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard,” January, 2013)
  • 62% of Vermonters do not have “rainy day funds” set aside for an emergency (Source: “The 2012 National Financial Capability Study”)
  • 41% of U.S. adults gave themselves a grade of C, D or F on their personal finance knowledge (Source: “The 2014 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey”)

The work of the Vermont Financial Literacy Task Force begins immediately and will conclude by year’s end, with a series of recommendations to the Vermont Legislature, educators, employers and non-profits capable of effecting change in the way we foster financial literacy in schools, colleges and the workplace. The recommendations will take the form of a comprehensive report that will serve as Vermont’s Financial Literacy Action Plan. The plan will provide a roadmap for policymakers, educators, business and non-profit leaders who seek to improve the level of financial sophistication among secondary school students, college students and adults.

The task force will function as three discrete committees, focused on K to 12 education, college education, and adults. Task force members include:

Vermont Financial Literacy Task Force
Chair — Bob Allen, President & CEO, Windham Foundation

K to 12 Committee

  • Chair — Linda Tarr-Whelan, Partner, Tarr-Whelan & Associates; former Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos; former Ambassador
  • Kevin Christie, Representative, Vermont Legislature, and Member, House Education Committee; Chair, Hartford School District Board
  • John Fischer, Deputy Secretary, Vermont Agency of Education
  • Daniel French, Superintendent, Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union
  • Lisa Helm, Director of Financial Literacy & Communications, Vermont State Treasurer’s Office
  • Juliette Longchamp, Director of Professional Programs, Vermont - NEA
  • Thomas Sedore, Principal, Spaulding High School
  • Art Woolf, Associate Professor, University of Vermont; Principal, Northern Economic Consulting; President, Vermont Council of Economic Education

College Committee

  • Chair — Scott Giles, President & CEO, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation
  • Kelley Beckwith, Director, Academic Support Center, Castleton State College
  • Pamela A. Chisholm, Associate Dean of Enrollment Services, Community College of Vermont
  • David Provost, Senior Vice President for Finance & Administration, Champlain College
  • John Ryan, Director of Institutional Research, University of Vermont

Adult Committee

  • Chair — Bob Allen, President & CEO, Windham Foundation
  • Paul Dragon, Chief Administrator, Office of Economic Opportunity, Department for Children and Families, Vermont Agency of Human Services
  • Lisa Falcone, Community Impact Manager, and Income, Working Bridges Project Director, United Way of Chittenden County
  • Susan Leonard, Senior Vice President/Chief Financial Officer, New England Federal Credit Union (NEFCU)
  • Martha Reid, State Librarian, Vermont Department of Libraries
  • Sean Woodroffe, Senior Vice President & Chief People Officer, National Life Group

The work of the task force will be managed by Champlain College CFL Director John Pelletier.

The Vermont Financial Literacy Task Force is funded by Vermont organizations and individuals concerned about Vermonters and their ability to successfully navigate their financial lives, including:

Association of Vermont Credit Unions, Champlain Investment Partners, Hanson & Doremus Investment Management, KPMG, National Life Group, NEFCU (New England Federal Credit Union), TD Bank, United Way of Chittenden County, various private donors, Vermont Association of Realtors, Vermont Business Roundtable, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and the Windham Foundation.