The 2017 National Report Card on Financial Literacy in High Schools gave Nebraska a “C” grade related to personal finance education. This same study offered “A” grades to five states and a “B” grade to 19 others. Last September, the Nebraska Department of Education (DOE) issued a public interest survey in relation to Nebraska’s current Social Studies Standards in our schools, which first incorporated basic requirements related to personal finance when last updated in 2012. While the NBA encouraged membership participation, unfortunately, the survey structure, detail and design were challenging for those not directly trained or knowledgeable about the current Standards and educational curriculum development, and thus private sector input was limited. The good news, however, is that the DOE remains open to additional input.
In response, the NBA recently sent the Nebraska DOE a comprehensive list of suggested additions/alterations to their Social Studies Standards. To provide background on our motive in doing so, here is what the research states: Currently, 22 states in the U.S. require students to complete a course in economics while 17 states mandate a course in personal finance as a graduation requirement. Recent research conducted by the Nebraska Council on Economic Education (NCEE) found that only 210 of Nebraska’s 244 school districts offer a personal finance class. Of these, 95 districts require completion of a personal finance class for graduation. These 95 districts account for approximately 60 percent of Nebraska’s total student population. While the names of the individual districts were not included in the NCEE research, we have learned that district size does not seem to be a limiting factor. In addition, conversations with many educators across the state suggest that requiring a personal finance class is not necessarily a question of resources, but rather a question of prioritization.
Based on the interaction bankers have with their many customers across Nebraska, it is evident a need exists to further increase the rigor of personal finance training in all Nebraska schools through enhanced school standards and/or legislative direction. A plausible option would be to amend Rule X to require all Nebraska students to take a semester-long personal finance class in their sophomore/junior year, coupled with curriculum direction in all other grades. Fortunately, legislation regarding this issue is expected to be introduced in the current session of the Nebraska Legislature, which began Jan. 9.
I understand and appreciate the many social and cultural challenges as well as the regulatory demands placed on Nebraska schools and educators. While understanding complex mathematic principles is an important skill in growing one’s mind, for example, we must also recognize that few students will utilize those skills in their future careers. From a practical perspective, the banking community knows that acquiring a strong personal finance skill set is essential to prepare Nebraska students for the future. Personal financial decisions will impact every student at every turn, regardless of their background, educational attainment, socioeconomic status or career tract. One needs to look no further than the current student loan crisis in our country to understand how a lack of sound personal financial decision making is inhibiting the future success of our students, graduates and ultimately our state’s economy.
The NBA’s original letter to the DOE contained 21 suggestions for their Standards on what the department could evaluate differently and what we feel is imperative to teach Nebraska students. For brevity’s sake, I have condensed the list to 10 suggestions we provided. Ideally, the DOE’s Social Studies Standards should be written so students leaving high school are equipped with the skills to:
Just as our members banks have done for years, our plan is to continue to monitor and work to improve our state’s economic health, the backbone of the financial literacy level of our next generations. We will also continue to provide access to online training tools like EverFi, visit local classrooms when asked, conduct tours of our banks and provide teaching aids as requested.
In addition, the NBA and our member institutions remain committed to working with the Nebraska education community to strengthen the financial understanding of our students and to make them both career- and life-ready.
Until next time,
Richard J. Baier
Throughout our strategic planning process last fall, one of the recurring themes we observed in our survey results and heard loud and clear from every focus group was the need for the NBA to proactively reach out to and engage with the next generation of bankers. It was not surprising to see this issue discussed as an organizational priority; one simply needs to look at the enrollment within our various schools, training programs, and conferences to recognize that the demographics of the Nebraska banking industry are currently experiencing a seismic shift. With the strategic plan as our roadmap, your NBA team has initiated plans to provide new educational/training offerings and create networking opportunities for these next-generation bankers.
Government relations and advocacy have served as the bedrock of the NBA since our founding more than 128 years ago. To help our next-generation bankers better understand the correlation between their jobs/careers and politics/government, the NBA hosted its first Young Bankers Day at the Capitol on February 13. Twelve bankers from locations across the state joined your NBA team for a one-day orientation to the Nebraska Legislature. The event schedule included a general orientation of the Legislature, a live Unicameral legislative debate, a hearing of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, and lunch with a select group of state senators including Sens. John Stinner, Matt Williams, and Rob Clements. Sen. Ernie Chambers was even kind enough to personally thank the young bankers in attendance during the floor debate and offered them some personal words of encouragement. The day concluded with a tour of the Capitol building.
When we ask young bankers about what they would like the NBA to focus on, we frequently receive requests for regional meetings to offer training and networking. As a result, the NBA will host a handful of regional Networking Lunch & Learns throughout the coming year. These short but focused events will be organized and hosted by members of the Young Bankers of Nebraska (YBON) Committee, with every effort made to keep these programs to less than two hours and costs minimal.
The first of these YBON Lunch & Learns was held in Kearney on April 4 immediately following the Spring Agri-Business Conference. Long-time NTV news anchor Seth Denney served as the featured presenter for this inaugural event. He focused his comments on public image, public relations, and the media. I would encourage you to watch the NBA Update for information about future Lunch & Learns and to send a young banker or two from your organization to these events.
Another important role that our next-generation bankers are providing this spring is serving as judges for the Bank On Nebraska Challenge. As you will recall, the NBA has invited Nebraska high school students to submit 60-second videos showcasing how their local banks have benefitted their families or communities. At the time of this writing, 35 videos from 15 different high schools were submitted for consideration. Special thanks to a statewide task force consisting of several members of YBON and the NBA Leadership Class of 2018 who reviewed, rated, and selected the top five “finalist” videos. The finalists will now be voted on by the public. Winners will be announced at the NBA Annual Convention in May!
Dialogue with our next-generation bankers suggests they are extremely interested in professional training and educational opportunities. As a reminder, the NBA and our partners offer a wide range of scholarships to advanced training programs offered through the KBA/NBA Schools of Banking and the various Graduate Schools of Banking. Don’t overlook the opportunity to invest in your next-generation bankers by supporting their attendance at these programs. Information about the various scholarship opportunities can be found at http://bit.ly/NBA-GSBscholarships.
Finally, we need your help! Successfully connecting with next-generation bankers requires communication from the NBA. While we can accomplish much of this through our social media channels, it is important that the contact information for our state’s young bankers is part of the NBA membership database. As you bring next-generation bankers onto your staff, we encourage you to send their contact information to the NBA. Working collaboratively, with a focus on the future, we can ensure the success of our next-generation bankers and the banking industry in Nebraska.
Email NBA President & CEO Richard J. Baier at email@example.com.
Richard Baier, a proud husband, father of two, and the president/CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Avid about growing the Cornhusker State's banking industry.