Thought Leadership Thursday
Financial Education Successes in Arkansas
Thought Leadership Thursday Article
As we wrap up the last couple of weeks of Financial Literacy Month, I thought I’d mention some of the great things that have been happening in Arkansas. Over the past five to six years, many state leaders have taken a renewed interest in the financial education of Arkansans, and for good reason.
To give you a bit of background, prior to my tenure as Treasurer, our state was given an ‘F’ grade in a national study by Champlain College that compared how well states taught financial education to high school students. In 2017, I fully supported legislation that required a financial education course as part of the curriculum necessary to graduate high school. Our state now holds a ‘B’ grade in Champlain College’s National Report Card study, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to be part of a group of leaders who are placing a renewed importance on financial awareness and knowledge among Arkansans.
Financial education has always been a passion of mine since I was very young. I’m proud to say that each year of my tenure we have had a focus on financial education – whether it’s going to schools to give advice to students about how to save and spend wisely, offering learning resources for parents and students who wish to know more about financial topics, or partnering with a local library system to offer webinars to educate people on basic financial terms and tools.
Shortly after I took office, we partnered with EverFi to offer free financial awareness programs to students across the state. We also partnered (and still do) with Arkansas’ Jump$tart Coalition working to educate our youth about how to responsibly manage money.
This year, we’ve teamed up with some banking institutions and a law firm to offer a free virtual program to Arkansans wanting to learn more about financial topics. In the first half we will cover the basics of banking, budgeting and saving. The latter half of the series will focus on basic financial planning and will conclude with a preparedness course that will encourage people to plan for the financial impacts of major life changes such as marriage, divorce, death of a loved one or the sudden loss of a job. I’m so proud to be partnering with a local library system on this program and hope it is one that will continue long after my tenure as Treasurer is done.
I’ve also been working with the Legislature this session to introduce a bill creating a statewide Financial Education Commission made up of citizens from the financial community in addition to government leaders. Our focus with this Commission, which I will chair, is to have a centralized advocacy group that will lead the state’s efforts on promoting financial awareness and knowledge.
We have a lot of individual efforts taking place in Arkansas with regard to financial education, and it is my hope that this Commission will be able to bring everyone to the table in a unified, cohesive effort so that we can work toward moving our ‘B’ up to an ‘A+.’
Arkansas may only be known for our beautiful natural landscapes and the world's largest retail giant, but I love that our state has a lot to offer people and businesses. With a skilled, financially-competent workforce, we can help our state be more economically competitive. And I’m proud to have had some small role in that.