National Financial Capability Challenge Runs from March 12 to April 13, 2012

On March 12, 2012 the Financial Capability Challenge kicks off, and will run until April 13, 2012. The Challenge, which is conducted by the Department of the Treasury in partnership with the Department of Education, offers high school students all over the country the opportunity to test their financial smarts. Last spring, over 84,000 high school students from over 1,600 schools participated in the Challenge. Let’s work together to increase the number of teachers and students participating in the Challenge and to improve the number of perfect scores! The 2011 Challenge saw 563 students receive perfect scores, with a national average score of 69%.

Financial knowledge is increasingly critical for young people, because a strong foundation of knowledge is important to good financial decision-making throughout their life. We hope that the Challenge encourages teachers to incorporate financial education into their classrooms, and will engage students in learning about personal finance. As high school students prepare to tackle the process of financing a college education or an automobile purchase, or even paying rent for their first apartment, they are often encountering concepts like interest rates on loans for the first time and the importance of good credit scores. By participating in the Challenge, students encounter and test their knowledge of these concepts before they face these decisions. The transition from high school to college is a teachable moment for personal finance, as topics take on real life relevancy. For example, two million enrolled college students eligible for Pell Grants did not apply for Federal aid, leaving money on the table[1] and two-thirds of students taking private loans did not exhaust more affordable, flexible Federal aid first[2].

As in previous years, an easy to use educator toolkit is available, with lesson plans focusing on the core concepts of spending, saving, borrowing, and protecting against risk. We hope educators will be able to use this toolkit to create a curriculum that best suits the needs of their students. The classroom offers an excellent opportunity to expose students to financial education as a practical application of the concepts they cover in classes such as math or social studies. High school teachers in any subject area are encouraged to participate to help prepare their students for future financial independence.

[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2008).The Condition of Education 2008. http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008031.pdf

[2]The Institute for College Access and Success.“Statement on College Board’s Trend Report.” (2009). http://www.ticas.org/files/pub/CB_statement_2009.pdf

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