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WVU business school leads 15 years of Finance University, helping primary and secondary school students understand money

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Dr. Bill Riley works with teachers who are earning continuing education credits through Finance University. 

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Teaching teachers. That’s what the 15th Annual Finance University, a week-long seminar in Charleston is all about, as primary and secondary school teachers learn how to teach students about money.

Finance University: Economic & Financial Education for Teachers is a financial literacy program that continues through July 14. For the past 14 years, the program has been a joint effort between the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office and the Department of Finance in the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. This year begins the transition of Finance University into the outreach arm of B&E’s Center for Financial Literacy and Education.

“Being the 15th anniversary, this is a monumental year for Finance University, and the CFLE is excited to take over the responsibilities associated with the program. It is a great opportunity to continue the legacy of this program and we are hoping to grow the program to include a greater number of educators from across the state in the coming years,” said Dr. Naomi Boyd, chair of the finance department and founding director of the CFLE.

Finance University brings speakers and scholars together to provide instruction to educators on topics related to financial literacy such as investment strategies and opportunities, retirement planning, goal setting and budgeting. It serves as a platform for teachers to not only learn about their own financial planning, but also provides them with the knowledge and resources to take back with them into their classrooms — from student debt to understanding the taxes that come out of your paycheck.

“We bring in speakers from the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Bank, credit card companies, software companies and more. There’s an awful lot of financial literacy material out there, and the teachers take it all in during the workshops and then they really use it in their classrooms,” said Dr. Bill Riley, professor of finance and co-establisher of Finance University. “I really come away very impressed that these teachers from all across the state take a week away from their summer to do this. Being a middle or high school teacher is tough, anywhere. Over the years I’ve listened to the stories they tell, and I'm amazed at some of the information they have just about what life’s like for these kids in rural counties. How do you really teach them financial literacy skills that they will use the rest of their lives?”

This year is Angie Litton’s fourth time attending Finance University. She teaches personal finance, accounting, business computer apps and business marketing essentials at Ripley High School in Ripley. She said she attends Finance University each year because she walks away with new knowledge, and with low school budgets, she appreciates that the cost of attendance, lodging, materials, software, curriculum and wealth of knowledge are free to the teachers.

“What I tell my kids at the beginning of each year is that the one thing you’re really going to learn and use is in this class right here. Finance is something you have to start with as soon as you get a job. You’re taking them from a gross income to a net pay and getting them to understand taxes, household inventories, insurance, whether they should rent or own. It’s knowledge they will use every day of their lives,” Litton said. “Through the year, students will say ‘Why do we need to learn this? I don’t want to do this.’ And already school has only been out a month, and I’ve already had a few students contact me and say, ‘I just filled out my first W9, and I remembered how to do it!’ or ‘I just got my first paycheck, and you were right – all these taxes come out.’”

There has always been a stigma when it comes to talking about money. And in today’s world, the modern family looks a little different, so talks of financial responsibility often slip through the cracks. 

“Kids don’t always have mom and dad. They’re living with grandparents. They’re living with aunts and uncles. And a lot times, they are going to work at age 16, so it’s good to get this information to them because they might not have anyone to help them. This teaches them early on before they have the chance to make financial mistakes,” Litton said. 

Despite the lack of financial dialogue among families, the numbers do not lie. The average 2016 college graduate entered the real world with $37,172 in student loan debt. On top of that, the average amount of credit card debt for a person below 35 years old is more than $5,000. With lower average incomes and the increasing cost of living, college graduates are essentially doomed by their debt when they enter the workforce. The goal of Finance University is to start the conversation to combat these issues. 

By fully taking over Finance University, B&E demonstrates its commitment to helping improve the wellbeing of the people of West Virginia, which includes future leaders such as primary and secondary school students. In addition to the numerous guest speakers, Boyd, Riley and Derek Walker, an adjunct professor at B&E, also present lectures and activities throughout the event.

“Your teachers are your first line to reach the students. Presenters give instructions to the teachers on exactly how to apply curriculum in their classrooms. A hands-on program like Finance University is so important because a lot of times school systems don't offer a basic class to tell kids that you shouldn't go into debt and you shouldn't charge credit cards up when they first leave high school, go into college,” Walker said. “Hopefully, through some of these financial literacy programs, teachers can take them back to their students, and those students can in turn get started off on the right foot when they graduate from high school.”



CONTACT: Blair Dowler, WVU College of Business and Economics

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