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SSU launches ‘financial literacy’ project with Redwood Credit Union

November 23, 2018

Americans need more training on how to manage their money. And educators agree that such training needs to start at a young age.

Nevertheless, a 2018 “Survey of the States” study by the Council for Economic Education has found that there’s been minimal to no growth in recent years in the amount of time dedicated to personal finance and economic education in K-12 education. This despite the fact that studies show such teaching results in a lower amount of personal debt in adult life, a greater propensity to save for retirement and an increased likelihood of having emergency savings on hand. To help address this disparity, Sonoma State University and Redwood Credit Union this week formally launched a partnership to develop a curriculum promoting the teaching of financial literacy in schools.

With the help of a $25,000 grant from Redwood Credit Union, the Sonoma State School of Education is developing course material to train undergraduates on how to teach financial literacy once they are working in the classroom. The course work, being developed by Dr. Carlos Ayala, dean of the SSU School of Education, and Dr. Susan Campbell, a professor of education, will be rolled out in three phases.

The first phase involves embedding financial literacy curriculum into existing courses in the School of Education. In the second phase, the curriculum will be expanded to other academic areas with a goal of having it reach 70 percent of all SSU students by the spring of 2021. The third phase, which will be developed simultaneously with the second, involves the development of an Advanced Financial Literacy Certificate Program that will be offered to current teachers in the profession.

“When these students come into the credential program, they will learn more about their own personal finance such as FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) scores and personal credit card debt,” said Campbell. “But the main focus is how do they teach this to elementary school students to get them started on thinking ‘What do I need to live and what do I want?’”

The partnership kicked off on Wednesday at Sonoma State with a “Bite of Reality” program (developed by the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation and offered throughout the North Bay by Redwood Credit Union) in which education students were given identities and financial portfolios and charged with moving about stations where they were presented with various life opportunities and challenges. Students, for example, were given choices on deciding what car they would buy and pay off with their personal budget. They even were asked to decide what type of groceries they would bring home. Based on their choices, some ended up succeeding financially while others had to face the hard truth of budgeting.

“This financial literacy event has really allowed me to start thinking about my future and my options in a way I never really thought about before,” said Makayla Lichtenwalter, an Early Childhood Studies student at SSU.

“So many parents and teachers don’t talk about personal finance with children and students because they don’t feel secure in it themselves,” said Wrynn Valentine Reynoso, a 2007 Sonoma State graduate who now works for Redwood Credit Union and presents the “Bite of Reality” program at local schools and youth organizations. “If we can help future teachers to be more secure in their financial literacy, then they are more likely to let that trickle down, and it could mean amazing things.”

The program comes at a time when state Board of Education has begun to encourage greater financial literacy instruction in K-12 schools. Dean Ayala said that by offering this curriculum, SSU students will be better equipped to meet those changing requirements. “Imagine the impact that all these students will have when they go out into the community to incorporate these lessons in their teaching plans,” said Ayala. “It would change the nature of banking and debt.”

For more information about the “Bite of Reality” program, contact Redwood Credit Union at biteofreality@redwoodcu.org or (707) 576-5268.