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March 31, 2003

Educators hope to improve financial literacy
through Networks initiative

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. ó Read the newspaper or turn on the news on any given day and there are bound to be stories about spiraling credit card debt, all-time high personal bankruptcies and record high foreclosures in Indiana and the nation.

A group of educators and business people met March 21 at Indiana State University to begin finding solutions to Americansí financial problems. The answer, many of them agree, is in the nationís youth.

"An overwhelming 68.1 percent of those surveyed learned to manage money at home," said David Bixler, president of the Indiana JumpStart Coalition, about a Personal Financial Literacy Survey administered to a national sampling of 4,024 high school seniors. "If mom and dad can ít make good financial decisions, how can they teach their kids?"

Bixler was among the guests at the NetWorks Personal Financial Literacy Initiative Curriculum Summit conducted on the third floor of Hulman Memorial Student Union.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring important stakeholder groups to the table to discuss the current situation of personal financial literacy in Indiana; to identify the personal finance skills and competencies; and to assess the gaps in the educational processes.

This is the first step in the ISU NetWorks Personal Financial Literacy Initiative and will be followed by other steps designated to improve the state of personal financial literacy in Indiana and, eventually, the nation.

Other guests included: Barbara Beadle, business and marketing education state supervisor, Indiana Department of Education; Tim Schilling, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; Gary Bolinger, Indiana CPA Society, president and CEO; Mike Webster, vice president and manager, installment loan department, Terre Haute First National Bank; Lisa Webster, assistant vice president and loan officer, Terre Haute Savings Bank; and several other members of the stateís K-12 educators and business professionals.

Bill Wilhelm, assistant professor of administrative systems and business education and organizer of the summit, said eventually, he would like to see personal finance taught in K-12 classes not as an elective, but as a core class.

"This meeting today will serve as a cornerstone to build a comprehensive list of the skills all people should possess upon high school graduation when it comes to personal finance," Wilhelm said. "What basic skills do they need to survive?"

Jennifer Petersen, an ISU alumna who teaches accounting and personal computer applications at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis, said the meeting and the initiative are great ideas. Many of her students donít realize how much things cost or what goes into creating a budget.

"I have my students do a budget project in class and many of them have no clue how much things cost or how much their parents spend on them," Petersen said. "Itís really an eye-opener for them. I tell them, ĎI donít care who you are. You could become the next Bill Gates and have your own accountants keeping track of your money. But wouldnít it be nice if you could look at your money and be sure no one was ripping you off?í"

Ron Green, dean of the ISU School of Business, said NetWorks has a broad vision of how it can help shape the future of the financial services industry in Indiana, the nation and the world.

"Itís gratifying to bring people together from different disciplines to discuss the needs for personal financial planning," Green said. "We want to make sure we have the appropriate awareness of the need for education in personal finances in the school system."

After the March 21 meeting, Wilhelm plans to conduct three rounds of online surveys where participants will rank and rate data in terms of importance. From there, he will look at how the results compliment the work already done by the JumpStart Coalition and what the next plan of action should be.

The Coalitionís direct objective is to encourage curriculum enrichment to ensure that basic personal financial management skills are attained during the K-12 educational experience.

ISU received a $20 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., in October 2002. The financial literacy summit was the first of a series of upcoming programs and initiatives that will be made possible with this grant. NetWorks is an outreach of the ISU School of Business to provide new directions in financial services for Indiana, the nation and the world.


Jennifer Kearns, assistant director of public affairs,
(812) 237-8037 or

ISU Public Affairs:
(812) 237-3773 or