Personal finance education is most effective when teachers are comfortable with it themselves
By Annamaria Lusardi & Nan J. Morrison, Education Week
Would a school allow athletes into a game without any practice? Send kids to their library or point them online but not help them learn to read? Should schools stop teaching math because some children find it hard or might fail? The notion, as advocated by some, that America should let students slide into adulthood without teaching basic personal finance concepts is equally shortsighted. As a researcher and a leader of a financial education organization, we could not disagree more. In fact, we experience every day the profound, lasting impact that financial education has on our nation’s young people.
One high school senior who recently completed classes in economics and personal finance told us that this practical curriculum was transformational: “At first, it felt like a foreign language. Now, I understand how to make more thoughtful decisions about my life. It’s a new way to think,” the student said. We’re thrilled the teacher was able to get the training necessary to master the subject and inspire kids in another avenue of knowledge.
Not every teacher, student, or school has that option.
“Teachers, like many other Americans, need to build the competence and confidence to teach this subject.”
The 12th grader’s observation puts a fine point on who needs financial education and how to deliver it. If we want to demystify the language of finance and build capability, we must ensure that every child has access to quality financial education. That happens best in the classroom when personal finance is treated like any other subject. Ideally, these essential life lessons should be integrated into the K-12 curriculum—a bit each year, culminating in a full semester class. In a standard math education, for instance, we teach kids to count in kindergarten so they build readiness for algebra years later. Personal finance education should be treated similarly.
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WASHINGTON – Better integration of education at all levels, eliminating the distinction between higher education and career preparation and more cooperation among local, state and federal policymakers can remove barriers and better prepare a workforce that increasingly includes individuals who don’t fit the traditional profile of college students.
Those were some of the suggestions made by two experts at a policy roundtable discussion Wednesday presented by Higher Learning Advocates, a nonprofit organization devoted to connecting federal policies with the needs of postsecondary students, employers and communities.
At the roundtable, titled “Bridging the Education-Workforce Divide: Upskilling America’s Workforce,” Dr. Aaron Thompson, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and Dr. Jason Smith, partnership executive director of Bridging Richmond talent hub in Virginia, discussed challenges to bridging higher learning and the workforce and issues of access and success for students.
“The conversation itself is problematic and where to place emphasis in the pipeline,” said Smith. “We have to stop separating education and workforce preparation. We take those two parts and separate them out, and I think that’s really problematic. We need to start thinking about it all as being workforce preparation.”
Given the demographic changes and projections of postsecondary school populations in the United States, neotraditional or new traditional may be better terms for students long described as nontraditional. Through most of America’s recent history, the profile of an average college student was an unmarried middle-class White student attending full-time immediately after high school with parental financial support, living on campus and earning a bachelor’s degree in four to five years.
Today, however, only 13 percent of college students live on campus, 26 percent are parenting, 38 percent are older than 25, 40 percent attend part-time, 42 percent live at or below the federal poverty line, 47 percent are financially independent, 57 percent attend two-year colleges and 58 percent work while in school.
Add to those factors the unprecedented cultural diversity of student populations and diversity of postsecondary education options and the need to remove barriers to quality, affordability and successful outcomes for students becomes clear, said moderator and HLA deputy executive director Emily Bouck West.
A significant change in recent years, Thompson observed, is more students who perceive that they don’t have access to higher education and that they lack opportunities to succeed in that space, in spite of financial aid and other support systems designed to help students achieve both.
“Our job is to put value back in that value proposition,” said Thompson. “How do we change that? How do we talk about quality?”
A central part of the discussion should be greater alignment of educational arenas from preK-12 to two-year and four-year institutions, Thompson said. Providing quality education in a seamless continuum with career preparation as a central driver can help skeptical prospective postsecondary students – especially from underrepresented groups – see that education beyond high school is affordable and valuable, doable in a reasonable time and leads to employment, he said.
Breaking down silos between different types of postsecondary institutions can benefit students, said Smith, whether community colleges, baccalaureate programs, vocational-technical programs or online for-profit learning.
Data-sharing and articulation agreements that promote more thoughtful and efficient transfer of credit between schools can benefit students, Smith added. For example, a student may transfer from a community college to a four-year university without having earned a credential, but may find after one or two courses that those credits can be reverse-transferred to the community college and qualify the student for an associate’s degree.
Post-secondary students drop out or stop out for a range of personal issues, from financial to family concerns. Better credit-transfer rules and other such policy changes – which local, state and federal policies could promote – would increase the number of students completing a credential and help move more workers into the employment pipeline.
“One very different thing for students today is it is no longer the experience that you went to one institution and stayed there until you completed it,” said Smith. “People now are looking for learning they need for employment now. And where can I go later to add on? How can I stack into something that helps me over a long period of time?”
Smith and Thompson agreed that employers and schools must begin to work more closely together, and earlier in the formal education process, to ensure that student learning fits employer needs and expectations.
“There’s a need to get employers more involved on the front end in creating programs that matter and teach what they’re looking for,” said Thompson. “Everybody doesn’t have to go to college, but should have education post-high school that works. We need to be far more intentional in putting people on pathways, with employers engaged throughout the process for a continual-improvement model. We in higher education have to rethink how we’re doing business. And so do employers.”
Policies around financial aid also need to be revisited as both an access issue and a success issue, Thompson and Smith said. Paying for school and having the financial resources to meet human needs are concerns for traditional students as well as students from low-income and underrepresented groups, and guidelines around student loans and the Pell grant should be aligned with those needs, Thompson said.
Policymakers at the state and federal levels can play a role by incentivizing “disconnected” systems in higher ed to work better together for post-secondary students, said Smith.
Curriculum redesign informed by the employment sector as early as elementary school and wise use of outcomes data can close completion gaps and help students become culturally competent workforce participants, Thompson said.
“Schools need to align ourselves with a student success paradigm so we’re on the same page when talking about issues of quality and engagement,” he added.
Treating higher education as one system rather than multiple systems and helping students experience wrap-around services in a more integrated way “would go a long way” toward promoting the success of all students, Smith said.
“There needs to be a shift from an access-for-all mentality to a success-for-all mentality.”
LaMont Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @DrLaMontJones.
Capitol Hill’s budget arm says that among the many options federal lawmakers have for cutting the budget deficit, they could consider eliminating Head Start and federally supported school meal programs.
The Congressional Budget Office’s “Options for Reducing the Deficit: 2019 to 2028” is the latest in a series of reports the office releases to help lawmakers consider options for reducing the federal deficit, which in fiscal 2018 stood at $778 billion, or 3.8 percent of gross domestic product. There are a total of 121 possibilities the CBO lists for reducing the deficit, and there are a few programs listed that education policy advocates and observers might be interested in. The report also explores changes to Pell Grants and certain loan forgiveness programs available to teachers.
Keep in mind that this report from the CBO doesn’t require or place any burden on Congress to do anything—the office is just listing options for lawmakers to consider. Also: The CBO isn’t explicitly endorsing any of these options.
Child Nutrition Programs
Instead of the current funding and structure provided to school meal programs, the CBO outlines an approach familiar to many who deal with education policy and politics: block grants.
“This option would convert SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps] and the child nutrition programs to separate, smaller block grants to the states beginning in October 2019. The block grants would provide a set amount of funding to states each year, and states would be allowed to make significant changes to the structure of the programs,” the report states.
The budget analysts say this approach would reduce total spending on child nutrition programs by $88 billion, while savings for SNAP would be $160 million over the same time period. Spending on child nutrition programs like school lunch totaled $23 billion in fiscal 2018…
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Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful, but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel like too much to manage. While I can’t save you from a forgotten application deadline or the “how to do your own laundry” lessons, hopefully, I can help make the financial aid part of the process run more smoothly with these tips:
How many FSA IDs will my children and I need?
An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process—from the first time your children fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form until the time their loans are paid off. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID. Parents and students can create their FSA IDs now.
Note: Your FSA ID is associated with your Social Security number and is equivalent to your legal signature; therefore, each person can only have one FSA ID. If you are a parent, you will use the same FSA ID to sign each of your children’s FAFSA forms.
How many FAFSA® forms do we have to complete?
Each student and one parent need an FSA ID, and each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA form. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2019–20 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before Jan. 1, 1996, or can answer “yes” to any of these dependency status questions.
Example: You have three children who are going to go to college or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSA forms, one for each child.
Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA® form to another so I don’t have to reenter it?
Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA form is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. At the bottom of the confirmation page, you’ll see an option that asks, “Does your brother or sister need to complete a FAFSA?” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and select the arrow at the right.
NOTE: This transfer option is available on fafsa.gov but it is NOT available on the myStudentAid app at the moment.
TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his or her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.
Once you select the arrow, a new window will open, allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left (I am the student) in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the option on the right (I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State) and enter your child’s information.
IMPORTANT: Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so when the FAFSA form says “you,” it means the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the ribbon at the top-left of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re being asked to provide student or parent information.
After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.
Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information prepopulated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!
NOTE: If you have a third (or fourth, fifth, etc.) child who needs to fill out the FAFSA form and provide your information, repeat this process until you’ve finished all your children’s FAFSA forms.
The Johnston Community School District began a journey to provide its students with quality financial literacy learning.
Financial literacy surfaced as a focus from our community roundtable conversations, as well as the new Social Studies standards. Discussions focused on potential benefits of a full semester course versus an integrated approach across multiple courses. They wanted all students to have a quality experience of depth of content, fidelity of topics, and the opportunity to be taught by teacher experts.
Johnston staff agreed that a deep, authentic course was needed for all of our learners to be successful in understanding financial literacy. The team decided the class would be taken by juniors, and last fall a course on Financial Literacy became a graduation requirement.
The semester-long Financial Literacy course uses Next Gen Personal Finance materials, supplemented with teacher choice materials, all of which are free to access and use.
Students will be expected to learn about financial goal setting, budgeting, banking services, paying for higher education, insurance, investing, credit and debt, and buying a home and car. In learning these topics, students do a variety of activities, ranging from games and simulations to creating videos and other multimedia. The key was ensuring that an otherwise dry topic was presented in a fun, engaging and realistic manner.
A recent survey of the first students who went through the course showed that 99 percent of them said that Financial Literacy will help them in their adult life.
Students also take part in the H & R Block Budget Challenge. It is a 10-week simulation where students receive and pay bills, keep a budget, contribute to their 401k, and manage a credit card. Students enjoy the challenges that come along with managing a realistic budget.