Financial Capability: Important for Students and Communities

Education is the civil rights issue of our time. The Obama administration has worked to ensure all students have a strong foundation and level playing field, no matter where they were born or where they live. This week, President Obama declared that April will be Financial Capability Month.

Now more than ever it is important to ensure that all students are ready for college and careers. A critical component of this readiness is financial capability. This includes sound financial education, but also the skills, dispositions, and access to appropriate financial products—in a consumer-friendly environment—necessary to make informed financial decisions.

It is critical that financial capability is a part of every student’s education, whether they are about to enter the workforce or make the decision about where to go to college and how to pay for it.

The effects of this financial capability, however, stretch beyond the gains that will accrue to the individual. We know that students who learn financial lessons often spread these lessons to their parents, aunts and uncles, and others in their community.

This is why Secretary Duncan recently joined leaders in the city of Chicago as they announced an initiative to bring financial capability to more people throughout the region. John Rogers, CEO of Ariel Investments and Chair of President Obama’s Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, hosted civic leaders from across the city of Chicago.

Commitments to expand the reach of financial capability were made by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, City Treasurer Kurt Summers, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and many other civic and community leaders.

Before the event, Secretary Duncan toured Ariel Academy, where all students learn financial lessons starting in kindergarten. He also spent some of the day with Mario Gage, an alumnus of the school, who now works for Ariel Investments.

Chicago is taking great steps forward to increase the financial capability of its citizens. ED plans to continue to highlight similar work being done by other cities that will build the foundation of financially capable students.

For more information on financial capability, see the following resources:

David Soo is a senior policy advisor in the Office of the Undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education.