UWM: Study Shows Class Increases Urban Teens’ Financial IQ


MILWAUKEE – Teens can learn a lot about good financial choices – even in
two weeks.

A seven-year study of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Youth
Enterprise Academy (YEA) – a summer financial, economics and leadership
“boot camp” for urban teens — shows students made significant gains in their economic and financial know-how. In addition, the study showed that YEA students who went on to join a follow-up program, the Youth Investment Clubs, were more likely to complete high school and head to college. All but two of the students who participated in the investment clubs enrolled in college.

This summer’s Youth Enterprise Academy is now is session and runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon each day through July 1. An awards luncheon is set for July 1 at noon in the UWM Union, 220 E. Kenwood Blvd.

“Students who participated in the Youth Enterprise Academy significantly improved their knowledge of economics and personal finance,” says Mark Schug, director of UWM’s Center for Economic Education, organizer of the YEA, and author of the study. Schug went on to explain that “we know from other research that knowledge is the critical factor in influencing financial and economic behavior.”

Schug based his research on data compiled from the first seven years of the summer program. The 175 students, who were tested with a basic economics and finance test at the beginning and end of the two-week session, averaged a 12.9 percent increase in scores.

The results are particularly compelling, says Schug, because YEA focuses on urban youth, many from minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. National studies show that nonwhites in urban households are more likely to file bankruptcy and have lower credit scores than whites. Studies also show there is a significant gap in net wealth between whites and nonwhites. For example, says Schug, a 2003 Federal Reserve study shows that nonwhites or Hispanics own homes at a lower rate, hold less business equity and are less likely to invest in bonds, mutual funds, retirement, stocks or certificates of deposit.

The findings of this study show that urban young people can learn key concepts and principles of financial education if they’re given the right materials and teaching, says Schug, who also is a professor of curriculum and instruction in UWM’s School of Education. Unfortunately, he adds, economic education is offered less frequently in large urban school districts than in other school systems. That doesn’t have to be the case, he says. “The materials and the overall approach used in the Youth Enterprise Academy are easily available to school districts or other colleges and universities. These are not extraordinary or exotic teaching approaches.”

In the two-week summer program, students get tips on preparing for college while in high school, and learn the basics of spending, saving, investing and using credit wisely. They also get a broader overview of how the economy works, and analyze corporations to see whether they would buy, sell or hold the stock.

Local business people offer their expertise as guest speakers, and students take a field trip to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Trade. Students who complete the summer course receive a $500 savings bond.

In addition, ten students in two teams of five from each YEA program are invited to join a Youth Enterprise Investment Club, managing a college fund with an initial value of $2,000 per student or $10,000 for each team. The study provides evidence that young people who participate in such real-life investment programs are very likely to go on to college, says Schug.

This year’s YEA students have high goals.

”I want to learn about finance and economics because I want to start my own business,” says Brandis Hill of Rufus King High School. Her grandmother heard about the program from a Rufus King teacher and encouraged her to apply.

“It’s fun learning about the economy,” says Ong Vang of Hamilton High School, who heard about the class from her business teacher.

“I like learning about different careers,” adds Genesis Deleon, also of Hamilton, who’s in the process of deciding what she wants to do in her life.

“I didn’t know a lot about stocks and investing and thought it would be fun,” says Kasey Lewandowski of Rufus King High School.

Jeff Pugh of Rufus King has a clearcut economic goal – “I want to make money.”

The Bradley Foundation, Economics Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the UWM Center for Economic Education sponsor the Youth Enterprise Academy. Additional support comes from the Bank One Foundation, IBM Corporation, John F. Syburg, Joy Global Foundation and the Miriam and Bernard Peck Foundation. This year’s classes are taught by Schug; Beverly Cross, professor of education; Lisa Marion-Howard, principal of Byron Kilbourn School; and Tim O’Driscoll, economics teacher at Arrowhead High School. Local business people, journalists and government officals are guest speakers

CONTACT: Mark Schug, 414-229-4842, [email protected]