The Cowin Financial Literacy Program

The Cowin Financial Literacy Program

A partnership of Teachers College, Columbia University and the nonprofit Working In Support of Education (w!se) with the generous support of Joyce Cowin.

The Teachers College financial literacy initiative is designed to bring experiential learning about personal finance into under-resourced, urban high school classrooms. This first-of-its-kind initiative provides social studies teachers in grades 11 through 12 with intensive professional development and customized curricula. The lessons and their supporting materials can be integrated easily into history and economics classes, providing teachers with a range of opportunities for introducing concepts of financial literacy. The project will be expanded to include other grade levels in the future.

Every person past the ninth grade should have knowledge of money—how to finance a college education, how to ensure that expenses don’t exceed income, how to monitor a credit card and interest . . . and how much to pay for rent and what a mortgage is. We need to educate the next generation.
Joyce B. Cowin, Teachers College Alumna

Financial literacy is the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being. (2008 Annual Report to the President, President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy). Being financially literate means being able to handle day-to-day tasks like comparing prices and evaluating an insurance policy, and it means being able to use concepts of financial planning and problem solving to transform personal visions of the future into reality.

Being financially literate also has a civic component. It means being an active citizen who understands the public policy issues that bear directly on one’s own well-being, the well-being of others, and on the overall health of the economy. Financial literacy supports the economic literacy that enables students to understand forces within the economy that significantly affect the quality of their lives (Stern, 1998). Economic literacy improves a citizen’s ability to hold elected representatives accountable on critical issues of public policy because, as a voter, they understand what is at stake.