Local high school students explore personal finance

Published 1:23 am Sunday, January 11, 2015

A local high school, identifying a need for its students to be better prepared to manage money and their future, has started a brand new Entrepreneurship program through its Career and Technical Education program.

Southside High School recently did away with a course it’s offered its students through Career and Technical Education for several years called Principle of Business and Finance, replacing it with Personal Finance, said Principal Dale Cole. The Business-Finance course had lost its popularity among students at the school because many of them did not see themselves starting a business, and administration felt that was a problem for Beaufort County’s future so it decided to address the problem in a different way, Cole said.

“One of our school improvement goals at SHS is to make sure our students are graduating in four years with better knowledge of how to manage money,” Cole said. “After looking at the recent mortgage crisis, debt crisis, and credit card debt crisis for Americans, our School Improvement Team felt we needed to do more. Financial literacy is currently listed as part of the state social studies curriculum, but our teachers have so much to cover already to prepare students for the state exams that many times this topic is not covered in the depth that it requires.”

Cole said when surveyed, most of the school’s students wanted to learn more about how to manage their personal finances. In response, the school offered one section of the class this past fall and 24 students signed up. At the end of all CTE courses, the students are required to take a certification exam tied to the course. These certifications, if earned, can be placed on the students’ resumes to aid in acquiring employment. The certification for Personal Finance is a national certification called Ever-Fi, which covers credit scores, credit card debt, insurance, taxes, investing, savings, 401k and mortgages. The class and exam are built on the National Standards for Personal Finance created by the JumpStart Coalition, Cole said.

Of the 24 students that signed up, 20 have passed the exam, Cole said.

Cole said many of its university-bound students take fewer electives while in high school and replace them with college class offerings they can take while still in high school. As a result, most of those students would not choose to take the course. So Cole spoke with partners at East Carolina University that provide Southside’s online college courses, and they were able to offer a Consumer Finance course for college credit to the students. Eight students enrolled in the Consumer Finance course this semester through ECU, and all of them passed the class, earning themselves a college elective credit. The number of students taking the class is set to double next semester, based on student interest. With the debt a student can incur while attending college, the school’s administration wanted the students to be fully prepared with financial knowledge, Cole said.

“We are excited about the opportunity it provides for our university-bound students,” Cole said. “We feel it is a problem that many of our students show little interest in starting their own small business. We feel that small business owners are the backbone of America, and if Beaufort County is to grow a strong economy, we need to be training future small business owners.”

Through the new Entrepreneurship program, students at Southside are offered Entrepreneurship 1 this spring for the first time, and nine students have already signed up, Cole said. That course will lead to Entrepreneurship 2, with the goal being for students to learn all aspects of what it takes to create a successful small business, including creating an idea, procuring financing, marketing the business in a 21st-century manner and making the business grow.

“We hope small business owners in the community will come forward and be willing to share their expertise with our students this spring,” Cole said. “The bottom line is our high school is here to create good citizens of the county, state and world that graduate with a plan for their next step in life.

“We want to see our county grow economically so that we can keep our best and brightest home instead of losing them to the Research Triangle Park. However, above all, we know that everyone must know how to manage their finances in order to be good citizens. At Southside, our team wants to do everything we can to be sure our students are ready for independence.”

Find out more about Ever-Fi at http://www.everfi.com/everfi, and learn more about the JumpStart Coalition at http://www.jumpstart.org/assets/files/2015_NationalStandardsBook.pdf.