High School Pilot Program

Peter Shumlin at the launch for the pilot program

Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin speaks at the launch of a two-year pilot study to improve 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.

"This is so important and it is a great opportunity for Vermont to be a leader in financial literacy education," noted Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin, who joined top Vermont officials and Champlain College leaders to outline the potential benefits of the pilot program.

Ted Beck, president & CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) in Denver, Colo., also was on hand to discuss the national importance of improving financial literacy education in schools. He also spoke to the Legislature's Committee on Education about the program and need to incorporate it into high school curriculum. "Vermont is one of the national leaders is this area and you have the potential to create a great model for the entire country," he said.

John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College explained that the goal of the pilot program is to compare the knowledge and behaviors of high school students that have taken a personal finance course taught by highly-trained educators with a control group of students that have not received classroom instruction on this important topic.

Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce said part of her role is consumer protection and education. "The more educated consumers are, the less likely they are to need the help of government."

"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.

Vt. Commissioner of Education Armando Vilaseca, Champlain College President David Finney and representatives from the program's sponsors, National Life Group; Merchants Bank; Champlain Investment Partners, LLC; Northfield Savings Bank; Vermont Mutual Insurance Group and other private donors were thanked for their support that so far has raised $270,000 to fund the Vermont High School Financial Literacy Pilot Program.

"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.

NATIONAL LEVEL OF INTEREST IN THIS TOPIC

This project has received the support of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation and two prominent non-profit organizations - the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and the Jump$tart Coalition - leaders in national efforts to bring financial literacy curriculum to students in America's classrooms.

"Although this is a Vermont-based pilot program, the ultimate goal is to create a final written report that will have national implications," Pelletier added. NEFE will be providing its expertise on this project with regard to the creation of student assessment tools on the topic of personal finance and will help develop the project's final report.

The Jump$tart Coalition has provided its innovative Teacher Training Alliance Curriculum to the Center to use in the training of the educators who participate in this pilot. This curriculum was designed by a national steering committee consisting of the Jump$tart Coalition, NEFE, Council of Economic Education, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Family Economics and Financial Education, Junior Achievement, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Champlain's Center for Financial Literacy was the third national test site for this curriculum.

"The recent Great Recession demonstrated that our citizens struggle when making complex financial decisions that are critical to their wellbeing," explained Champlain College President David Finney. "Some of our economic problems were created by bad actors, focused on personal gain, but so many others were created by good people making poorly informed personal financial decisions."

Pelletier acknowledged that "adding personal finance education to Vermont's high schools is complex due to significant and demanding curriculum requirements that exist today. Local school boards already struggle to fit all academic requirements into already full schedules. Our schools need help providing educators with the confidence, skills and curriculum tools that they need to successfully teach personal finance in the classroom. This program will provide local school boards with a roadmap on how to train educators, conduct student assessments and integrate these 21st Century skills into the curriculum."

Organizers say this project could help overcome some of the institutional obstacles by providing data on how to develop successful personal finance education programs in our schools and by identifying the best practices of the teachers involved in the pilot through the creation of a Professional Learning Community of educators that is funded by the pilot program. These teachers will share their results and recommendation to all teachers throughout the state and country at the completion of this program via a website delivery mechanism.

A successful outcome of the pilot would be proof that personal finance instruction positively impacts the knowledge and behavior of the students that participate in the classes. These students should graduate with personal finance knowledge and should be able to make smart choices about saving, investing and spending, especially as many of them head to college or begin life in the workforce.

Overseeing the two-year project is the Burlington-based Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, which was launched in December 2010 to address the lack of financial sophistication among our citizens that contributed to the financial crisis of 2008.

Classroom opportunities are needed to provide basic information to help students make wise and informed decisions about their immediate and long term financial life, including credit and credit cards, debt, student loans, along with cars and other major purchases, Pelletier noted. 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 a rainy day fund.

NEED FOR MORE EDUCATION CITED

"The lack of personal finance education in middle and high school has a major impact on the lives of graduates post-graduation. Some students confront the life changing consequences of amassing credit card and student loan debt while in college," Pelletier said.

VT TEACHERS FINANCIAL LITERACY SUMMER INSTITUTE

Champlain's Center for Financial Literacy's Vermont Teachers Financial Literacy Summer Institute, sponsored by Merchants Bank, will enter its last year of a three-year program to provide graduate-level education program for 105 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 three other collegiate institutions in the entire country that offer similar training. This program will run from June 25th to June 29th. The Center will be accepting applications to this program through May 4.

In July 2011, the first 24 teachers were trained on Champlain's campus by approximately 30 different instructors. These teachers were from 21 distinct Supervisory Unions throughout the state. The teachers involved in the 2011 session have provided personal finance instruction to more than 1,750 students this academic year.


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