Financial literacy month spotlight:

UNI financial literacy program prepares Iowa high schoolers with 21st century skills

The University of Northern Iowa is expanding its financial literacy outreach to Iowa high school students and teachers, thanks to the support of several Iowa credit unions and financial institutions, including the Iowa Credit Union Foundation and Transamerica.

Launched in 2020, the expansion of the Financial Skills for Smart Living curriculum is made possible by generous investments from Veridian Credit Union, Lincoln Savings Bank and the Iowa Bankers Association, Green State Credit Union and Farmers State Bank. 

As of fall 2021, the program has reached more than 80 Iowa schools and some 10,000 high school students.

“Financial literacy can be life-changing, especially when acquired at a young age,” said Angela Weekley, community inclusion manager at Veridian Credit Union. “There’s no better way for us to celebrate Financial Literacy Month than by helping teachers share these vital lessons with students across Iowa. We’re grateful for the chance to support this program.”

A key component of the program is training Iowa teachers to teach financial literacy courses, but continuing education courses that can prepare educators to teach such courses are scarce. 

UNI’s financial literacy program is the only one in the state that includes all topics related to personal finance as mandated by state requirements. It is also the sole program offering participating students the opportunity to earn college credit. 

CeAnn Palmer, business IT instructor and school-to-work coordinator at Maquoketa Valley High School, took part in UNI’s financial literacy teacher training, and has since put what she learned into a curriculum for her students. 

“I’ve had two guest speakers, one a CFA and another a past graduate of Maquoketa Valley who works in a university's financial aid department, give interactive presentations,” Palmer said. “And they were astounded with what these students knew by the end of the semester. The speakers said over and over again, ‘You are so lucky you have this information at 18 because it will change your life.’”

The UNI financial literacy curriculum covers goal setting, financial statements, careers and pay, savings, credit and loans, spending, insurance and identity theft, investments, and retirement and estate planning. 

“Our goal is to provide a personal finance curriculum that is informative and engaging for students as well as easy-to-use and fun to teach for educators,” said Jennifer Anderson, UNI College of Business teaching program coordinator and director for Financial Skills for Smart Living. “With the support of organizations like Veridian Credit Union, we are able to provide this high-quality curriculum and training to more Iowa high school teachers and offer the option for students to earn three college credit hours at little or no cost.”