HFC, district to pilot new state financial literacy class for high schoolers

Lt. Gov. GARLIN GILCHRIST II Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II

Officials from the state, Dearborn Public Schools and Henry Ford College have announced the launch of a new Financial Empowerment Curriculum to teach youth the basic principles of managing their money.

Special guests at the Dec. 7 announcement included Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, State Treasurer Rachael Eubanks, Henry Ford College President Russ Kavalhuna, Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent Glenn Maleyko, Michigan Bankers Association Executive Vice President Patricia Herndon, and Financial Empowerment Curriculum stakeholders.

“It’s always an exciting day when we have an opportunity to open up an opportunity,” said Lt. Gov. Gilchrist.  The new curriculum will help young adults find a more solid financial footing by introducing them to concepts like budgeting, financial goals, insurance, loans and savings, he said.  Topics like investing, employee benefits, retirement funds and more will also be covered.

The pilot program in Dearborn represents the beginning of anticipated programs and partnerships between other Michigan school districts and community colleges.  Officials hope it will be a first step to better equip Michiganders for life’s financial challenges. 

During this pilot, Dearborn Public high school students can enroll in a Personal Finance class concurrently with Henry Ford College, gaining valuable financial life skills while earning college credit.  

Personal Finance, or BFN 141, will be available starting with the winter semester at HFC.  High school students interested in taking the class should contact their school counselors.  The 3-credit college course will be taught by HFC instructors or by district teachers who are qualified to teach a class at the college.  Starting in the fall of 2021, all students enrolled in one of the district’s Henry Ford Early College programs will be required to take the class.  The class will count as a fourth year math requirement for high school seniors.

The Financial Empowerment Curriculum will have specific measures to see if it is helping students, such as surveying students on how many open bank accounts and how many complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The curriculum could be modified  to improve those outcomes before the pilot is duplicated in other parts of the state. 

Last year, the Michigan Department of Treasury was part of a financial literacy program held at HFC, state Treasurer Eubanks said.  During that event, the department heard from experts that residents at every level need a better understanding of finances, but it is especially important to get young adults off on the right foot.

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist noted planning for the course started before the pandemic and said he was glad the program could launch in the midst of the current situation.

“This program could not come at a better time,” he said, noting the pandemic has shed a stronger light on financial disparities in some communities.  The financial damage from the pandemic was made worse for many people because they were not prepared to weather any financial upheaval.

Ms. Herndon noted everyone could gain better financial stability and greater financial success by understanding topics like investing, banking, and the costs and benefits of interest rates.

“As my kids say, this is learning how to adult,” Ms. Herndon said.

HFC President Kavalhuna said the class fits well with the student-centered focus for both the college and the district. 

“Part of our mission is to build better lives and help people succeed,” he said, adding later, “Understanding how money works from a young age is important to lifelong success.”

He opened his first checking account when he was 15 and learned money was slow to earn but quick to spend.  Having a good job is only one part of financial success. Surveys show almost half of Americans have no savings and one third carry more than $16,000 in credit card debt, he said.

“If you are going to live anywhere in the United States, you need to understand how to make money work,” President Kavalhuna added. 

Ms. Herndon said improving financial literacy for Michigan residents helps the individual, their communities, and businesses.

“Good financial literacy and good understanding helps everyone grow their pie,” she said.

Superintendent Maleyko said he was proud that the strong partnership between the district and the college allowed them to pilot this important program in Michigan.

“Financial Empowerment is a good name for this initiative because that is what this class will do; it will empower students to understand and take control of their own finances as adults.  Hopefully this program will benefit them throughout their lives,” Dr. Maleyko said.