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Financial literacy classes spread at HBCUs and high schools

Our Money Matters Program Director Sharon Kent joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the need for personal finance lessons for students of HBCU and faith communities, community wealth building, and the outlook for financial literacy platforms.

Video Transcript


JULIE HYMAN: Study up. Personal finance is now on the curriculum. A new law in Michigan requires high school students to take lessons in personal finance, learning basics like budgeting, comparing rates, how to grow money. We love all that stuff. Such education is invaluable, in particular, for BIPOC communities, often targeted by predatory financial schemes. And some education groups, they're not waiting for legislation to begin teaching.

Joining us now is Sharon Kent, program director at Our Money Matters, which specifically focuses on HBCUs and getting this important financial education for college students. Sharon, talk to me about the need here for this kind of financial literacy to be taught.

SHARON KENT: Well, first, thank you for having me. And the need is great. We know from our own data that so many HBCU students, more HBCU students end college with more student debt than their white counterparts, significantly more. And we also understand that more Black women in college end college with more student debt than even Black men. And so this debt gets in the way of their being able to move forward in their life financially.

And so we have this program, Our Money Matters. And the idea is to bring financial literacy to the campuses, to the students, so that it can change the trajectory of their financial health. And so in order to do this, we are on the forefront. We're on the frontline of bringing financial literacy to our young Black and minority-serving institution students so that we can change the trajectory of their life.

One of the things that we have seen through the work that we do every single day is that the campuses that we are currently working with welcome the opportunity to bring this platform to their students. And we have seen, as we watch the students on the platform, the courses that they're taking, the curriculum that they're interested in, it lets us know that we're on the right track. And that track is moving the needle to closing the racial wealth gap and also creating community wealth.

BRAD SMITH: What is the best way for states who are considering where they can kind of insert programs that really increase financial literacy, education, what is the best way for states to go forward with making sure that there is legislation that also educates on how people can correctly make those financial decisions? One of the biggest financial decisions that families do make, quite frankly, is whether or not to go to college, and then what college to go to on top of that.

SHARON KENT: Yeah, so that's a great question. And so I'm not involved on the legislative side of our work. But I would say that there is a need for some legislation that brings financial literacy not just to college students, but-- which was mentioned at the top of this segment. but also to high school students and even middle school students. And I know that there are other organizations out in the country today that are leading the charge in bringing this type of financial literacy to those constituents.

And it is important, but without real legislation that really mandates and dictates that the students across high school, certainly college, then they're missing out on the opportunity to learn how to prevent themselves from going into debt, how to-- and once they're in debt, then how to get out of debt, how to use the tools that are on our platform, Our Money Matters, to not only take a financial literacy curriculum, but also take advantage of the other resources that are on our platform to include resume help, to help students they can submit their resume and have a professional take a look at it, offer some suggestions so they can improve their resume on our platform.

They can also do a job search. They can do a scholarship search. There are so many rich and robust tools on our platform that will help students in high school, certainly, but dynamically, more dynamically, in college, as these young adults are leaving school now and are going to be out in the workforce, and when we know for a fact that one of the things that prevents them from moving forward in their careers and in their life is the weight of student debt.

And so our goal is to bring this platform to those students, and like I said, help change the trajectory, but even bigger than that, have an impact on community wealth building. And so that will help us eliminate the need-- will help us eliminate and reduce the racial wealth gap and build community wealth. And the idea that the work that we do every day is changing lives and that we are doing legacy work that not only impact this generation, but for generations to come.

BRIAN SOZZI: Sharon, the curriculum that is currently being taught in high schools, from a financial literacy perspective, what does that look like?

SHARON KENT: So, in high school as well, most financial literacy platforms start with budgeting, right? It all starts there. You have to understand how much you're bringing in, how to monitor it, how much goes out, what's left, what do you do with what's left, do you make decisions on investing, do you make decisions on furthering your education. So, really, most financial literacy platforms and training starts with budgeting. And it's hard to manage your money if you don't have a plan for your money.

And so it really all starts with budgeting. And then from budgeting, depending on each individual person's, what their needs and goals are, we have so many young people today that want to become entrepreneurs. And so, having your budget and then kind of deciding now with the money that you are investing and saving, how you can become an entrepreneur. And so there are a lot of opportunities and a lot of curriculum on our platform and others that provide some insight on how to become an entrepreneur and what you need to be a successful entrepreneur.

BRAD SMITH: Sharon Kent, program director at Our Money Matters. Sharon, we appreciate the time and the work that you and your team are doing.