For far too many students and families, the lack of financial literacy is a major roadblock on the path to entering college and succeeding once enrolled. Students who leave college early report financial reasons as a major factor, and research shows that something as simple as opening a savings account early makes it much more likely that a student will attend college. This is why it’s important that we teach students at an early age how to make smart decisions about money.
The Department of Education has partnered with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) to help families build strong financial futures that include paying for higher education.
The Department has joined NCUA in conducting conferences across the country to encourage partnerships between schools and financial institutions that promote financial education, access, and savings for students and their families. These conferences were launched in March in Phoenix, Ariz., Richmond, Va., and Philadelphia, Pa., and will continue throughout the year.
The third of these conferences was held on Thursday, March 17 in Philadelphia and brought together education officials, community groups, and financial institutions for a conversation about financial literacy programs currently in place, opportunities for future partnership efforts, and challenges to implementing these programs. I joined NCUA representative Diane Rector in a workshop that facilitated partnership opportunities.
William Garfinkel of the Mobile Notary of Delaware remarked, “The Department’s message of financial literacy is certainly an important one, and one that more people need to hear.” As a result of this conversation, the Department was invited to speak to a Delaware Credit Union conference in April.
Bryan Yasukochi, a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School student and the VP of marketing at the Student Federal Credit Union, was very interested in seeing what resources were available. He hoped that the Department of Education would be able to speak to Wharton students about financial literacy and forming partnerships.
In addition to ED’s Financial Literacy Summits, high school teachers can bring financial literacy to the classroom by taking part in the 2011 National Financial Capability Challenge, a program designed to improve students’ knowledge of the basics of saving, budgeting, and investing. To register for the Challenge or to download the Educator Toolkit, visit Challenge.Treas.gov.
We have all been challenged by the President to make America once again the leader in college completion by 2020. Providing families and communities opportunities for financial access and education will play an important role in helping students go to college and succeed. Together, with partnership, we can meet the President’s college completion goal and help families gain financial security.
Elizabeth Williamson is an education program specialist in the Department of Education’s Philadelphia office of communications and outreach