A University of Arizona study aimed at understanding the financial behavior of college students is being adapted to help low-income youth in South Tucson.
APLUS Outreach: Just-in-Time Financial Literacy Program for Low-Income Teens targeted 20 young people employed at a local community center. Those picked for the study earned nearly $3,000 over 10 weeks ending Aug. 10. Most of them had little or no prior exposure to money management.
Each week, the participants were taught financial basics by trained students from UA Credit-Wise Cats, who give personal finance workshops throughout the year. The program included field trips to a bank and an investment firm.
In turn, as part of their work responsibilities, the South Tucson youth will adapt their lessons to teach children ages 5 to 12 and also discuss what they've learned with their parents.
Joyce Serido, an assistant research professor with the UA Norton School for Family and Consumer Sciences, heads APLUS Outreach. The program is based on the ongoing Arizona Pathways to Life Success in University Students study, APLUS, which is following more than 2,000 young adults through college and into adulthood to examine financial attitudes, behaviors and the forces that drive them.
Serido said one of the biggest challenges and most important responsibilities for a university is taking its research to the community in ways that make a difference.
"Our goal is to create awareness," Serido said of APLUS Outreach. "Not only is this a great way for young people to learn from role models close to their own age, they reinforce that learning and sense of empowerment by teaching it to younger children and talking about it with their parents."
"The most important background factors we found in students with healthier financial behaviors were work experience, education and socialization that touched on personal finances, especially socialization with parents," Serido said. "This program applies all of those findings."
"When we heard the proposal for this program, we immediately saw its value as an innovative way to jumpstart a brighter financial future for these young people," said Jason Ott, the community relations director with Citi, which is cooperatively funding the program with Wells Fargo.
"Savings are a critical first step toward financial stability and economic empowerment," said Bill Holmes, vice president and community relations manager for Wells Fargo.
Serido said she wants to see APLUS Outreach reproduced statewide and across the country and will be disseminating lessons learned via a network of financial education instructors coordinated through the Norton School's Take Charge America Institute.
She said the program also could become a study itself, offering data on effective messaging and education techniques in working with low-income youth and peer mentoring.