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VOL. 125 | NO. 132 | Friday, July 9, 2010

Financial Literacy a Priority in Tenn., Nationally

ADRIAN SAINZ | Associated Press Writer

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MEMPHIS (AP) — A new program geared to teach Tennessee's students and their parents how to save money for college is part of a growing national emphasis on financial literacy education.

The Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission will help students save for college and educate their parents about the financial challenges. The program will initially target elementary school students. Also in the early plans is a Web-based clearinghouse giving residents access to financial literacy resources already in place in Tennessee.

Nationally, the Bank On Cities program, 25 cities strong and about to add 50 more, helps municipal leaders connect low- and moderate income people with affordable, safe bank accounts to avoid predatory lenders and other expensive alternatives, like check cashing and title loan services.

The campaign organized by the National League of Cities requires a partnership between city governments, banks, credit unions and community groups. It has grown from a handful of cities in 2008 to nearly 25 today, said Heidi Goldberg, a director of family economic success programs with the National League of Cities.

Another 50 cities are close to launching or are in the planning stages. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. announced "Bank On Memphis" earlier this year, and Goldberg was recently in Louisville to mark that city's participation.

The Bank On Cities campaign apparently has caught the eye of the Obama administration, which has made a $50 million federal budget request for the program.

Another national group called Junior Achievement already addresses financial education in Tennessee. Junior Achievement is a nonprofit organization that teaches work readiness skills, entrepreneurship and financial literacy to students.

Junior Achievement's, JA Finance Park program places students in a grown-up situation — married with children, for example. Students must manage budgets and make decisions about what house they are going to live in, whether they are going to rent or buy, and what car to purchase.

Another program sends students to JA BizTown, where they take on roles such as mayor, bank teller or restaurant owner, and work together to run a miniature city.

Tennessee's arm of Junior Achievement hopes to join forces with the state program, said Larry Colbert, president of Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South. The organization serves about 35,000 students in Nashville and another 30,000 in Memphis.

Tennessee's new program is still in the planning stages. State Treasurer David Lillard said the speakers of the state House and Senate should appoint members to the commission this fall.

An appropriation of $125,000 is in place for this fiscal year, with the majority of it going to the University of Memphis' existing financial literacy program, state Treasury spokesman Blake Fontenay said.

Other organizations interested in financial education will be welcomed in the program as it develops, Lillard said.

"Personally, I don't know how anyone can say making people in the state of Tennessee more financially literate is not a critical thing we need to do," Colbert said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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