A new program Idaho Central Credit Union is offering free to the state’s high school students is teaching them how to set a budget and handle unexpected expenses using a high-tech personal finance simulation.
The Chubbuck-based credit union has committed to offer all of Idaho’s 333 high schools five years of complimentary access to Stukent Inc.’s Mimic Personal Finance simulation and curriculum, starting next fall. ICCU has also offered to provide participants hands-on financial training.
Stukent, which is an Idaho Falls-based digital course-ware provider specializing in simulations and digital textbooks for college and high school students, launched Mimic Personal Finance in November. For the current school year, Stukent provided the program free to all U.S. high schools. Garrett Brock, Stukent’s vice president of marketing, said 1,400 schools nationwide are already participating.
“What’s really cool about it is it provides a hands-on experience,” Brock said. “Students get to practice making real financial decisions. In most financial classes they just learn the theory.”
Brock said ICCU opted to continue free access for Idaho schools after Stukent CEO Stuart Draper told ICCU CEO Kent Oram about the product during a conference.
ICCU has made a $2.8 million investment in providing the program to state high schools, said ICCU spokeswoman Laura Smith. She said 80 state schools have already committed to participate in the program next fall.
“They log in each week and they get a budget and they get a paycheck and they have certain things throughout the week simulated as different decisions they have to make,” Smith said.
East Idaho schools that currently plan to participate include Blackfoot, Bonneville, Century, Firth, Grace, Grace Lutheran, Highland Hillcrest, Idaho Falls, Madison, Lincoln Alternative, Malad, Marsh Valley, Pocatello, Preston, Ririe Junior-Senior, Rockland, Salmon, Shelley, Skyline, Snake River, Soda Springs, South Fremont and Sugar-Salem high schools. White Pine STEM Academy and Compass Academy are also participating.
The program includes 13 units encompassing 50 lessons.
“The timing of the curriculum depends on the school, but they have enough content for an entire year,” Smith said. “It’s completely up to each teacher to determine how they’d like to implement the program.”
Students participating in the program will budget for routine costs such as housing, insurance, student loans, car loans and food. However, the software occasionally deals them unexpected expenses, such as sizable bills for a medical emergency.
Smith explained some teachers have incorporated the real world into the virtual experience. For example, she knows of a teacher who allows students who obtain real college scholarships to apply them toward their virtual student debt. Other teachers have used the desks in their classroom to highlight the concept of real-estate value. For example, students may budget virtual dollars for an actual desk near an electric outlet or in a special zone of the classroom where they’re allowed to eat snacks in class.
“With this platform we have the opportunity to help high school-aged students learn about real financial decisions with real consequences in a simulated environment before they’re out in the real world learning in the hard way,” Smith said.
ICCU employs 1,300 workers and serves more than 380,000 members from 37 locations. It’s the largest financial institution chartered by the state. On Jan. 2, the credit union announced it has exceeded $5 billion in assets.
Oram said the project fits into ICCU’s mission of helping members achieve financial success.
“At ICCU, we know that the earlier we can help our members learn how to improve their financial situation, the better,” Oram said in a press release. “That’s why when we had the opportunity to provide financial literacy to high school students in an engaging new way we moved on it.”