Sonoma State partnering with Redwood Credit Union to promote financial literacy

With the rise of student debt and lack of efficient money management, individuals find themselves without the essential skills to manage their personal finances. Sonoma State University and the Redwood Credit Union is trying to combat this growing issue by offering classes about money management to students.

In early 2018, “Survey of the States” study by the Council for Economic Education found that there has been minimal to no growth in recent years in the amount of time dedicated to personal finance and economic education in K-12 education. The furthest most schools go to teach their students about money and finance is showing the students what different currency looks like.

Many school administrators and teaching staff have noticed the issue with the lack of money management education within public schools and are slowly implementing personal finance curriculum into their schools. The financial literacy project at Sonoma State has been spearheaded by Dr. Carlos Ayala, dean of the Sonoma State School of Education and Dr. Susan Campbell, a professor of education. 

“I know that one of the important pieces of education that undergraduates need to get is about financial literacy for themselves. We know that there is a national student debt crisis around loans, we know credit card companies target college students and we know that students leave their college institutions with large amounts of debt.” Ayala said. “Students lack the proper money management skills that will help them the rest of their lives and the financial literacy project is designed to teach them those necessary skills.”

Ayala worked closely with executives from Redwood Credit Union to get the project up and running, while Campbell developed the money management coursework. The coursework was completed over the summer and the classes were offered to students within the School of Education credential program. 

The financial literacy classes are designed to teach college credential students money management skills to then be able to implement the curriculum into the classes they will go on to teach after college. Credential program students go through a simulation called bites of reality. Bites of reality gives each student a programmed identity, such as a airline pilot making $100,000 per year. Then the students get to choose a house, car, daycare, groceries, etc. they want to buy or can afford. This gives the students personal finance experience and budgeting practice.

Campbell’s financial literacy curriculum for K-12 education starts off in kindergarten where young students will learn about the differences between needs and wants. In first and second grade students will complete a project that gives them experience as an entrepreneur and certain scenarios on how to make money, third and fourth grade will teach them the differences between banks and credit unions and the workings of the organizations. As the students get older the curriculum becomes more detailed to give them more knowledge about money management. 

“I’ve always got my eyes in two different directions, one is the credential students and then the other one is the elementary students. My hope is that the adult students just get a little bit more aware of what is going on with their personal finances so that they can spread their knowledge about it to the elementary students,” said Campbell. 

The financial literacy project is in its early stages with this being the first semester it was offered. Sonoma State’s goal is to expand curriculum to other academic areas with the possibility of it reaching 70 percent of all Sonoma State students by Spring 2021.

Daisy Agers, a senior Childhood Studies major at Sonoma State said, “The financial literacy project is a great resource for credential students to not only get personal finance experience, but also to spread that knowledge to our youth.”