Financial Literacy Done Right
Financial literacy is a skill that most of us need to navigate life’s challenges successfully. But until recently, that skill was not taught in schools. To help remedy that, Sandy Spring Bank partnered with a digital learning company called EverFi to create the Sandy Spring Financial Scholars Program. The financial skills program is offered at public high schools across Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Steven Brown, economics and personal finance teacher at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., uses the free, web-based financial literacy program to help prepare students to face real-world financial challenges. I recently had the opportunity to attend one of Mr. Brown’s classes and present certificates to the students who completed the program. Principal Gregg Robertson was also on hand to help celebrate and recognize the achievements of these impressive students. I also had a chance to speak with Mr. Brown about his experience with the Sandy Spring Financial Scholars Program.
“There is huge value in preparing students for life after high school, whether they are going to college or directly into the workforce,” Brown said. “The generations before them were not taught about these things, and many of them will tell you that they didn’t learn them until it was too late.”
Students learn about a range of personal finance issues, from buying insurance to using electronic banking to managing debt. “I find that most students see value in the course, and it’s not a hard course to sell them on,” Brown said. “With personal finance, everyone is going to have to use it no matter what you decide to do after high school.”
Students often come into the class with little to no background in personal financial matters. They have questions about how to use credit and how to avoid debt. “A lot don’t understand the difference between a debit card and a credit card when they walk in the door,” he said. But by the time they complete the class, they are familiar with those subjects, as well as learning how credit reports work, the importance of maintaining a good credit score, saving for retirement and many other subjects. “They come to understand the importance of starting out on the right foot,” Brown said. “And we encourage them to go home and discuss what they’ve learned with their parents.”
Brown said the course is especially valuable for students who are learning English as a second language because the computer presentations are more visually oriented than textbooks typically are. For students who struggle with reading material, the computer learning modules provide information in a different manner. “It’s much more visual and examples are much more vivid; it’s being immersed in the personal finance world,” he said. “We have been very happy with the program.”
The 2016-17 school year marks the sixth consecutive year that Sandy Spring Bank has partnered with EverFi to bring the program to classrooms at no cost to the schools or taxpayers. EverFi trains partnering teachers to use the interactive web-based financial management program, which uses video, animations, games, avatars and social networking to bring financial concepts to life for today’s digital generation. Teachers and schools are given the flexibility to use the online modules in the way that best fits their curriculum and access to technology. Because the modules can be accessed on any device with an internet connection, teachers can use the modules in the classroom or as homework assignments.
Sandy Spring Bank has steadily expanded the program since it launched in Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland, and it is now also available in 30 public schools in Anne Arundel, Howard, Prince George’s, Arlington and Fairfax counties, as well as in Washington, D.C. More than 20,000 high school students have completed nearly 88,000 learning modules, dedicating more than 72,000 hours to financial literacy throughout the course of our partnership.