Oregon Credit Unions’ Financial Education Work Highlighted in Senate Hearing

NWCUA provided testimony to the Senate Committee on Education about credit unions’ work to fill gaps in education requirements.

3/3/2020

The work of Oregon credit unions to help consumers build brighter financial futures was highlighted during a Senate hearing last week.

Personal finance education is not required for graduates of Oregon’s public schools — a shortcoming in preparing them to budget, spend wisely, and save for the future. Credit unions have a years-long track record of filling the education requirements gap by voluntarily providing thousands of hours of free financial education to students across the state. The impact of that stalwart effort was made clear in testimony at a Senate Committee on Education hearing Feb. 27.

Pamela Leavitt, Northwest Credit Union Association Policy Advisor for Oregon Advocacy and Grassroots, documented for committee members that financial education is a top priority for credit unions.

“A society of financially literate consumers, who can avoid scams, predatory lenders, and the enticement of over-spending will never emerge without financial education in schools.”
– Pam Leavitt, Policy Advisor, Oregon State Advocacy and Grassroots, NWCUA

Joining Leavitt at the hearing was Sharee Adkins, Executive Director of the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, which provides grants for credit unions to host Financial Reality Fairs. Adkins testified that during the 2018-2019 school year, 1,600 students in Oregon participated in the fairs, experiencing a typical day in the life of an adult facing financial responsibilities and choices. As they navigated through the exercise, credit union employees gave them guidance on smart money choices. 

Adkins told about her own experience volunteering at a Financial Reality Fair, where her students “experienced the fickle hand of fate.” One received a surprise birthday gift of $150, while another was hammered with a $200 auto repair bill.

“I was encouraged,” Adkins testified. “The student who received the unexpected windfall planned to put the funds straight into savings — yes! And the student with the auto repair bill, while unhappy about his bad luck, shared with us that his mom had just gotten her car out the repair shop. ‘This is what our parents have to go through all the time?’ was a sentiment expressed by a number of students that day.”

Financial education “will ensure students have the secure footing they need as they step out into the world of adulthood and will set them on the path to economic stability and financial health,” Adkins added.

Leavitt and Adkins provided written testimony documenting the work of numerous credit unions in the state to educate young people about finances.

A Junior Achievement representative, a high school teacher, and two students also testified about efforts to fill educational gaps. State Treasurer Tobias Read testified about the need for a financial literacy curriculum in schools.

Hearings such as the one held in the senate committee last week help inform state leaders about the need for initiatives or legislation to move policies forward. A commitment for a more thorough examination was made as a result of the testimony. Treasurer Read will convene a Task Force this year, and NWCUA will request to be included in the discussions, Leavitt said.

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