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Students Get Credit for Dealing with Debts

Class takes money management to another level

By Kathy Walsh Nufer, Post-Crescent staff writer

Adults snowed under by credit card debt and a pile of bills might wish they had taken the course Appleton North High School is set to offer next fall.

North is one of a handful of high schools nationwide that will pilot Personal Financial Management, a yearlong course designed to help students learn how to avoid the money trap that comes from living beyond one's means.

"We want to empower kids to understand how to build wealth, and how you have to live below your means to do that," said Mary Hultgren, Appleton Area School District vocational education coordinator.

Money management has been taught as part of a family and consumer education department course called Living On Your Own.

Monday, the Board of Education changed the name to Personal Financial Management.

Underlying the change is a beefing up of the curriculum for what young people learn about their financial responsibilities in the real world and how they can become financially secure.

Joining the school district in offering the pilot are Aid Association for Lutherans and the Actuarial Foundation of the United States.

Appleton is getting this opportunity because Walter S. Rugland Jr., AAL executive vice president and chief operating officer, is on the board of the Actuarial Foundation.

Also on the board is founding trustee James Tilley, a prominent actuary and chief information officer for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in New York.

Tilley developed a "Money math Learning series" to help his son, who has special needs learn about finance and how to use spread sheets.

The foundation then looked around for different "learning environments" around the country I which to test the series, says Lynn Davis, an AAL actuary involved in the pilot project.

While the target of at least one of the other pilots is high-end learners, North will use the series, with a broader audience.

The North course will also include a "Managing your Personal Finances" text being written by teacher Rita Riordan.

The course will show students how to manage their money using computer spreadsheets, and will cover areas as diverse as risk management, home mortgages, auto loans, and how to use credit wisely and invest.

"What we're doing is raising the bar and integrating activities from the Actuarial Foundation manual so kids have a real hands-on idea how to manage money," she said, noting that one day they will all be banking and paying bills on computer.

As a parent, Davis said she welcomes the effort to taking personal money management to a different level.

"My son, a graduating senior who is very bright, has no knowledge of spreadsheets," she said.

Davis said as part of AAL's role, she is shepherding the field trip portion of the program, which will bring the students into AAL to see financial management in action, and send professionals to North to speak to students.

*The above article was reproduced with Permission from the Post-Crescent Wisconsin newspaper, Spring 2000

What's Covered:

Among topics covered in the Personal Financial Management course are:

  • Money management using computer spreadsheets
  • Risk management
  • Home mortgages
  • Auto loans
  • Using credit wisely
  • Investment