WASHINGTON (4/11/14)--A recent U.S. Treasury Department study found that having an in-school credit union or bank branch really helped a financial education curriculum resonate and gain traction with young students.
Treasury commissioned the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) and the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to conduct this "first-of-its kind" examination of the combination of classroom financial education and in-school savings account access. A summary of the report called it "a promising approach for driving measurable improvements in financial capability."
The Treasury's approach would be considered experiential learning, a method based on the argument that people--small or otherwise--learn better when they can apply what they learn in a practical setting and if it is shown to be relevant to their lives.
The study involved Royal CU, a $1.4 billion-asset credit union in Eau Claire, Wis., and Amarillo, Texas-based Happy State Bank, $2.4 billion in assets. The research took place in elementary school classrooms in the two school districts during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.
"We're really encouraged by the result of this study," noted Gigi Hyland, executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation. "Through NCUF programs, we know first-hand the power of youth financial literacy and experiential learning. I hope credit unions use this data to further and strengthen their own financial education efforts to improve their member's financial well-being."
In the report summary, Treasury noted, "Overall, the research found improved outcomes from the hands-on financial education approach. Even relatively short classroom financial education significantly improved student financial knowledge, the effects of which persisted through the end of the study period."
"Both the financial education and access to in-school savings accounts were found to improve students' attitudes toward saving and about financial institutions," the summary said, adding that a student with access to financial services in his or her school also was more likely to have a savings account than a student who did not.
Treasury concluded that partnerships between local financial institutions and school districts are a promising strategy to teach financial skills to children early in life, particularly when in-school branches can be combined with a financial education curriculum.
The CFED has scheduled an April 23 webinar to detail the study findings.
Use the resource links to access the study and the webinar registration link.