Businesses host financial literacy education

Several local businesses are working with students to improve financial literacy rates.

West Allis-based Layton State Bank recently implemented a program at several local high schools in partnership with education technology company EverFi.

Layton is sponsoring a 10-unit online EverFi course for students in the West Allis/West Milwaukee, Greendale, Greenfield and New Berlin school districts.

Topics covered in the six hour program include credit cards, credit scores, insurance, student loans, budgeting for college, mortgages, taxes, stocks, savings and 401Ks, said Gary Szpara, senior vice president of business development.

“Instead of just giving them money for a book or whatever, we’re actually training them for financial literacy,” Szpara said. “We feel in talking with the educators that it is a much more preferred model for students than pencil and paper.”

With the online model, students can take the time to learn at their own pace, he said. Schools decide which courses and age groups to which the program is offered.

Layton is targeting the program to high schools in its markets, in the hopes it is training future banking customers, Szpara said. It will also prepare them for college or jobs in the community.

“A lot of students in college have problems with the use of credit cards, damaging credit scores and not really thinking about the future,” Szpara said. “Our goal is to reach every student in all of these schools.”

Students who graduate from the program receive credits in financial literacy and a ceremony and celebration hosted by Layton. About 100 have graduated from the program so far.

Junior Achievement and Menomonee Falls-based Kohl’s Corp. have also partnered to address financial literacy among local students.

Milwaukee-based Junior Achievement is a non-profit education organization. It opened the Junior Achievement Kohl’s Education Center in April 2011, and has since had more than 15,000 students participate.

Eighth through tenth graders from throughout the Milwaukee area can visit the Education Center to participate in day-long, interactive programming.

Now, Junior Achievement is in ramp up mode, and plans to have 10,000 students participate in its financial literacy program in 2014.

Students, who first complete coursework around budgeting, visit 19 “businesses” in the building to buy clothing, insurance, food, transportation and real estate for their “families” using a budget.
Many of these students are preparing to buy a car or enter the workforce, said Tim Greinert, president of Junior Achievement.

“It’s an age group at which the concept of financial literacy is becoming much more important and much more relevant,” Greinert said. “We’ve got students who are approaching their first real economic decisions.”

According to JA’s evaluations, more than 90 percent of students who participate in the program better understand how important their education is to their financial future.

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