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<p>MADISON, Wis. – Credit unions are headed back to school to teach young members financial survivals skills-in fact January was a record month. After joining forces with NEFE in 2000, credit unions have already set a new monthly record by bringing in orders for more than 14,000 student guides as part of the NEFE High School Financial Planning Program. As of the end of January 2002, 53,637 students were using the High School Financial Planning Program through the credit union movement, already 82% of the school year goal of 65,000. “Credit unions have always been interested in improving young people’s lives and prospects through personal finance education – we’ve seen that in the classroom presentation numbers from the National Youth Involvement Board network year after year,” said Philip Heckman, CUNA director of youth outreach. “The HSFPP gives credit unions a way to act on their long-standing desire to give teenagers the tools for financial independence.” So far this year, 541 schools have used the HSFPP through credit union involvement. Last year a total of 32,453 students at 414 schools participated. The HSFPP curriculum consists of six units that integrate easily into a number of existing high school courses, such as math, social studies, economics, and consumer or life science. The free materials provide a basic introduction to personal financial planning, covering the impact of career and work factors on earnings potential, spending and saving money, using and managing credit effectively, protecting assets, and the time value of money. Students also are taught how to develop their own personal spending and savings plan. According to Heckman, the program provides credit unions with quite the leadership opportunity as the champion of youth financial literacy in their communities. “There is a desperate need for this information in high schools. Teens have a pretty serious ignorance about basic money matters,” said Heckman. “This program in many cases is the last chance to teach them about the value of saving and managing debt before they go to college or out into the world and really get into trouble. There are also significant indirect credit union benefits, in that the more people understand smart money management the more they understand that credit union membership makes good sense. So over time this could help draw people into the credit union movement.” In addition, a study by the Jump$tart Coalition has documented a correlation between financial illiteracy and a state’s bankruptcy rate. It found that not teaching young people about money management continues to foster ignorance, which can lead to severe financial problems in adulthood. A national 18-month evaluation project conducted during 1997-98 conducted by Drs. Laurie Boyce of the University of Wisconsin and Sharon M. Danes of the University of Minnesota, faculty who are part of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, a nationwide, non-formal education network, found that the NEFE HSFPP positively impacted teen behavior and financial knowledge. The evaluation showed that as a result of participating in the curriculum, 29% of the teens started saving and 15% began saving more. Comparing financial knowledge and behaviors three months after participating in the curriculum to what those levels were before starting the curriculum, 37% had improved skills for tracking spending, 47% know more about the cost of credit, 38% have improved their knowledge about investments and 38% feel more confident about managing their money. When used in the high schools or any public venue NEFE requires that the program not be used to recruit members or pitch a financial institution. Credit unions can however incorporate the materials and make it part of their club for teenagers. Heckman encourages credit unions to offer to help teach HSFPP in the high schools. “For those credit unions interested in teaching the first step is to make contact with the local school system,” said Heckman. “Draw on personal contacts with teachers or contact Cooperative Extension Educators to make administrators of the school aware of the teen financial illiteracy problem.” While the program provides a step-by-step instructors manual, Heckman says “CUNA is trying to do everything we can to make training available and in a few parts of the country state leagues are hosting training sessions. For example, the Texas Credit Union League has four scheduled this year.” Heckman also advises credit unions to get their chapters involved in the program since most chapters cover more counties so there may be more Cooperative educators available to assist in training and making school contacts. “Making it a Chapter project would also be easier to meet demand in schools,” said Heckman. “The best example of how this works is the Tampa Chapter. They have recruited about 150 volunteers and work with 16 high schools. So volunteers specialize in parts of the program and spread the workload around. You don’t want to get into a situation where you take on more than what your credit union can handle.” NEFE recommends a minimum of 10 hours to cover the six units. According to Heckman that timetable would restrict the units to lectures, which are not as effective. An interactive lesson plans produces the best results and teens often get so involved that they teach themselves and what they learn sticks with them. “Most people would say the best long term solution would be to teach kids from kindergarten and begin money management,” said Heckman. “Right now the schools do coin counting but even a six year old can appreciate the idea of making a spending decision. The figures on credit card debt among young adults are scary, so for now we are doing what we can with the high school program and ultimately we hope we can extend it to younger kids in the future.” Credit unions already participating in the NEFE program should be reporting their HSFPP classroom presentations on the National Youth Involvement Board Web site www.nyib.org by selecting “Classroom Report” to ensure student participation is properly recorded. CUs interested in more information on the HSFPP can contact their league or visit CUNA’s Web site at www.cuna.org, and click on “Youth Education.” [email protected]</p>

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