Vermont Financial Literacy Summit

Champlain College

IDX Student Life Center

Burlington, Vermont

June 16, 2011

This free event was thanks to these generous sponsors:

TD Bank Logo National Life Group Logo

A message from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the participants of the Vermont Financial Literacy Summit held at Champlain College in March 2011.

Vermont Financial Literacy Summit Message from U.S. Secretary of Education from Champlain College on Vimeo.

Public policymakers, educators, business people and legislators gathered at Champlain College on June 16 to discuss the need for additional personal finance education in Vermont and to begin strategizing ways to improve it.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin opened the state-wide conference—organized by Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy and sponsored by TD Bank and National Life Group —with words of encouragement to those in attendance to keep looking for new ways to bring the vital curriculum into Vermont classrooms.

"Anything I can do as governor to help you raise the level of financial literacy in Vermont, I want to do," he promised. Though he expressed personal skepticism about adding legislative mandates for financial literacy graduation requirements, he offered some suggestions about how having more financially savvy Vermonters could help the state's economy.

"I'd like to see eighth graders across Vermont exposed to a series of jobs and careers, from welders to brain surgeons. And every high school graduate should do an internship to give them a taste of the real world and improve outcomes," he added. "Working together, I know we can make progress."

Organizers presented results from the "Financial Literacy Education in Vermont High Schools: A Snapshot," a statewide survey of schools completed earlier this year, showing that while 79 percent of school administrators felt a financial literacy graduation requirement should exist, only 11 percent of the school districts currently had such a requirement today. The survey also indicated that school administrators felt that upon graduation most high school students were not competent in financial literacy standards and that little if any student assessment of these standards occurs.

Ted Beck, president of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Financial Capability, noted that studies of students in their early 20s who have strong financial skills in the area of budgeting, using credit, investing and planning for retirement often trace their abilities back to three main things:

  • Growing up in families who talk about money practices
  • Education that covered the necessary skills in middle and high school and college
  • And having a part-time job as a teen-ager or student in college.

He urged those in the room to talk to their kids about money, support school programs that teach budgeting, credit and investment planning, and to encourage employers to bring financial education opportunities into the adult workplace. "Find a job for a kid that gives them productive work experience," he urged.

The goal of the 2011 Vermont Financial Literacy Summit was to raise the awareness of the need for stronger public policy choices related to personal finance education in Vermont.

The focus remained on improving the level and consistency of financial education opportunities in middle and high schools across the state, including:

  • A description of Champlain College's nationally-recognized efforts to provide its students with the necessary life and financial sophistication skills in addition to their professionally-focused degrees from President David F. Finney.
  • An update on national efforts to create financial literacy curriculums for schools from NEFE.
  • Why financial literacy is important to Vermont from Elizabeth Pearce, Vermont State Treasurer
  • A report on the National Financial Capability Study and review of the Vermont results from John Gannon, Senior Vice President,Investor Education, FINRA and President of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
  • A team of students from Champlain College's Emergent Media Center who offered four prototype e-games that could be developed to help teach financial literacy in classrooms.
  • A video message of support for the Summit from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
  • The economic consequences of Financial Illiteracy from Art Woolf, associate professor of Economics at University of Vermont and president of the Vermont Council on Economic Education.
  • A panel of educators from Burlington, South Burlington and Vergennes who shared best practices currently used in their classrooms.
  • Reports showing low levels of financial literacy across the nation. Mortgage defaults, foreclosure rates, personal credit defaults and bankruptcy rates are at all time highs according to economic experts.

"Sixty percent of adults don't have a rainy day fund; a third of them have not saved anything for retirement; a third have no savings to speak of; and more than a quarter of American adults don't pay their bills on time. These behaviors suggest there is a lot of room for improvement and the place to start is by educating people in personal finance," Pelletier said.

"Working together today, we are tapping into the collective wisdom of everyone here for ideas on how to best bring personal finance education into our schools, colleges and workplaces in effective and efficient ways that will directly benefit Vermont's economic vitality. And when we do that, we'll have a model that can be shared with other states and communities across the nation," Pelletier explained. "Vermont needs a strategic plan on financial literacy. Vermont needs a roadmap that will show us how we can improve the personal financial knowledge of our citizens: K-12 students, college students and adults," he said.

The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College will tackle those issues using a multi-pronged educational approach, including a summer teacher institute Aug. 1-5, sponsored by Merchants Bank, offering 26 Vermont teachers a five-day education masters credit course that will give teachers the confidence, skills and curriculum tools that they need to successful teach personal finance topics in the classroom. The Summer Institute is already full for the 2011 session with a waiting list for the 2012 offering. There is funding to provide this training to 80 additional teachers over the next two years.