The Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office embarked on a financial education initiative in 2013, two years after Treasurer Don Stenberg was elected to office. He was re-elected in 2014 and will leave office in January 2019, with financial education firmly in place in the Treasurer’s Office. In Nebraska, the Treasurer is limited to two four-year terms.
To truly understand the significance of Nebraska’s initiative, it is important to understand the demographics of the state and the Treasurer’s Office. Even though small in size and budget, the Treasurer’s Office staff members are convinced they are making a difference. To better understand the Treasurer’s approach to financial education in Nebraska, consider these facts:
Small Office, Small State, Big Difference
Treasurer Stenberg and his staff have learned important lessons about creating a successful financial education program in a rural state. One of the most important lessons is the value of the EverFi partners who help plan events in the schools and provide year-end statistics as well as certificates for students who complete the courses. Most importantly—and one of the key reasons the Treasurer’s Office chose EverFi—is the fact that an EverFi manager lives in Nebraska and recruits and trains teachers in the program.
Another lesson learned is the value of personal interaction by the Treasurer. Treasurer Stenberg has visited and spoken at 18 high schools and middle schools since the office’s financial education initiative began in 2013. In addition to shaking hands, he has talked to students individually, presented certificates, and answered questions about his own college experiences and financial challenges. He has judged competitions in which students solve hypothetical financial problems affecting families today. He has listened to students sharing their greatest worries about how to pay for college or find financial security as adults. And he has mentored students about careers in law, business, and government service.
Our financial educational initiative is directed at Treasurer Stenberg’s two main goals— to improve the financial knowledge of young Nebraskans and to promote the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, known as NEST, Nebraska’s state-sponsored 529 college savings program. Money to pay for the financial education initiative comes from NEST. No state tax money is involved. The online EverFi courses are available to students at no charge to the students or the schools.
In arriving at these priorities, a Treasurer’s Office staff member researched available financial literacy programs and resources and prepared a one-inch-thick notebook along with a five-page memo summarizing results and suggestions. The Nebraska Bankers Association had already worked with EverFi, which helped set the stage for the Treasurer’s Office. The partnership with EverFi was announced on May 23, 2013, in the Treasurer’s Office. The presence of the president of the Nebraska Bankers Association and two administrators from the Nebraska Department of Education at the announcement was critical to the program’s acceptance.
Treasurer Stenberg Announces Nebraska NEST Financial Literacy Initiative for Nebraska Schools, Parents
The Nebraska Treasurer’s Office financial education initiative is made up of two major components. The first is Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars, which includes the following:
EverFi is an educational technology company in Washington, D.C., and a trusted partner. EverFi has said its arrangement with Nebraska is unique because its partners oftentimes target either students or adults, but Nebraska recognized the value of educating both audiences through its broad approach.
Sign up for EverFi
The second—and equally important— component of Nebraska’s financial education program involves a partnership with the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, headquartered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Through this partnership, the Nebraska Treasurer’s Office promotes and helps judge the statewide Personal Finance Challenge for high school students and provides significant Nebraska Educational Savings Trust scholarships to winners. Scholarships range from $2,000 each for the four members of the first-place team, to $1,000 each for members of the second-place team, to $500 each for members of the third-place team.
In 2017, the team from Arthur County High School, one of the smallest schools in the state and possibly in the country, placed third in the national Personal Finance Challenge competition. In 2018, the national competition will take place in Lincoln, the capital of Nebraska.
Watch these videos about the Finance Challenge, sponsored by the Nebraska Council on Economic Education
Students in 173 schools in Nebraska received financial education in the 2016-17 school year at no cost to them, their schools, or the Nebraska taxpayers, thanks to the Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars program. The NEST Scholars online program for high school students was used in 132 schools, reaching 6,643 students, up almost 15 percent from the previous school year when the program was part of the curriculum in 115 schools. The average knowledge gain of high school students taking the course was 63 percent in 2016-17.
In this first year, 68 schools offered Vault for elementary and middle school students. A total of 3,178 students was reached. The average knowledge gain was 33 percent, based on pre- and post-assessments.
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