Nebraska high school students enrolled in the Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars online program made substantial gains in their overall financial knowledge in the 2014-15 school year, recording an impressive average knowledge gain of 61 percent, State Treasurer Don Stenberg announced today.
“The gains students made last year are both impressive and meaningful. They are especially rewarding for those of us committed to helping students master the basic financial information needed for their future personal, professional, and family lives,” Stenberg said at a news conference at Educational Service Unit 2 in Fremont. He was scheduled to present the same information later in the day at Educational Service Unit 7 in Columbus.
“Not only do NEST Financial Scholars know more, but they are also are more confident and better prepared to make the financial decisions they will face as they move through their teen years and into young adulthood,” Stenberg said. For example, 66 percent of the students said they were prepared to decide how much money to spend and how much to save after completing the online course. That percent was up 19 percent from before the course.
Stenberg said the program’s proven record of success with Nebraska high school students is an incentive for more high schools to take advantage of the free online financial literacy course this school year.
“I am very happy with these results and am encouraged as the new school year unfolds and more schools sign up for the free online program,” he added. “Thank you to all the school administrators and teachers in Nebraska who saw the need for improving students financial knowledge and took advantage of our free program for their students. We appreciate your support and your show of confidence.”
Last school year, which was the second year of the program, 101 Nebraska schools participated and 4,811 students were reached. The online program, developed by EverFi, Inc., of Washington, D.C., features nine modules of instruction and takes about eight hours to complete. Nebraska students completed a total of 26,074 modules in 2014-15. Over the past two years of the program, the total number of students reached is 7,025 total and the total number of modules completed is 39,390.
Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars is sponsored by the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST), a division of the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office. Stenberg is Trustee of NEST, the state’s 529 college savings program. NEST has more than 233,000 accounts nationwide, including 69,000 in Nebraska. The trust has more than $3.75 billion in total assets.
In some communities, local banks sponsor the EverFi program in their local schools, and EverFi is continuing to seek additional sponsors throughout the state.
While the average knowledge gain for Nebraska students was 61 percent, Stenberg noted that in the subject area of renting vs. owning, the average knowledge gain of students was 107 percent, based on pre-and post-testing. Other subject areas that showed strong student achievement were financing higher education, 88 percent knowledge gain, and investing, an 81 percent knowledge gain.
“The fact that students showed significant growth in their knowledge of how to finance higher education fits perfectly with one goal of our Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars program, which is to improve the awareness of our excellent 529 college savings programs called NEST,” Stenberg said. State-sponsored college savings programs, which provide tax benefits for investors, take their name from Section 529 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. NEST savers in Nebraska can deduct up to $10,000 from their Nebraska state income tax if filing jointly as a couple.
The following list shows basic subject areas covered in the EverFi program and the corresponding knowledge gain of students based on the pre- and post-assessment testing:
In addition, after the course, students were asked whether they felt prepared for a variety of personal finance tasks. The following are tasks they said they are now prepared to handle:
Below is a sample of students’ comments about the EverFi course from Lance Kosch’s Business Management Leadership class at Norfolk High School in school year 2014-15:
“It taught me how to plan for the future (and) how to save money and put it to good use.”
“EverFi has made me more aware of the importance of using my money wisely and how my financial decisions now will affect my future. I am less scared of living on my own someday because I learned how to safely invest, file taxes, protect my ID, and make large purchases.”
“I’m more confident in making financial decisions.”
“I plan to put the investment concept into practice. I think it is important to invest.”
“One section that really stood out to me was about consumer protection; today, lots of purchases and confidential information are done online, so it is imperative that I make wise choices and chose a secure password while dealing with the Internet.”
“Probably the biggest thing I took out of EverFi was the concept of financial literacy. I can talk to people about my financial future without sounding like someone who is trying too hard to sound like I know what I’m talking about or acting too important.”