NAU hosts financial literacy boot camp for high school seniors | Education

Rising seniors based out of Flagstaff high schools spent some time developing their financial literacy skills last week as part of a boot camp hosted by Northern Arizona University’s WA Franke College of Business.

Last Thursday morning, about 25 students gathered for the camp’s first day. The warmup activity started with a series of questions.

Would you rather save money or invest it? Would you give a loan to a family member?

The students took turns discussing answers, going into detail on simulated financial situations.

The activity was the first of a series of lessons the students would participate in during the event, which this year took place on July 28 and 29., and inance educators presented on practical financial skills such as budgeting, investments and the basics of banking.

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Nancy Baca, the interim director of NAU’s Economic Policy Institute and associate economics teaching professor, said the program came out of discussions with local economics and personal finance high school teachers.

Seniors in Flagstaff’s public high schools are required to take a semester-long combined economics and personal finance class — which Baca said she’d heard from local teachers is “just not quite enough.”

“It’s a really pivotal time in these young adults’ lives, and not all of them will go on to college, so we won’t always have the opportunity to provide them additional finance and economics education,” Baca said of the decision to focus on rising seniors. “I think it’s important before they start making those really big financial decisions in their life that they at least have a foundation.”

Baca said she’d heard stories from students who had shared what they’d learned in camp with their families and taught their parents something about finances in the process.

“It breaks the cycle that the lack of financial education produces in our society, that there seems to be people who just don’t have access to this information,” she said. “Hopefully we’re breaking that cycle and it just sets them up for financial success, especially in a world where we have so much economic insecurity. A little bit of information can translate into big changes or lifestyle choices that can be very impactful, not only currently, but into their retirement, starting to think about some of these things.”

The camp included lessons from Baca, as well as finance professor Kevin Aguas and teacher Julia Wright, on topics such as setting goals, understanding pay stubs, credit scores and the time value of money. These often included hands-on activities such as making calculations based on an imagined situation, looking at sample tax documents or taking a financial personality quiz.

The program’s organizers plan to continue it next summer and beyond. The college is also continuing to apply for grants and partnerships to add more financial literacy events and expand into more rural parts of northern Arizona.

The boot camp is in its second year and is one of the Franke College’s expanding series of financial literacy programs. It held two others this summer: the Fleischer Scholars Program on entrepreneurship and a family financial fun event with introductory finance-related activities for a variety of ages.

“We’re just going to continue to expand our financial literacy outreach in the Flagstaff community,” Baca said. “We also are extending outreach into our tribal communities through financial literacy events, workshops. … I feel like it is an incredible way for the Franke College of Business to reach out into our community.”

Baca said she hoped students left last week’s camp feeling “empowered about finance and financial security.”

“I hope they feel like they can make choices now, little choices that can make a large impact in their future. That they understand that there’s this compounding effect of decision-making, and it really starts with good habits now and with good decision-making now,” she said.

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