Area Teachers Help Teens Become Financially Savvy in Tough Times

By Jacqueline Ghosen

Release Date: May 14, 2008 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- More than 130 teachers from Western New York high schools are now using a Web-based curriculum called MoneySKILL® to help their students develop personal finance skills, thanks to outreach efforts by the University at Buffalo School of Management and M&T Bank.

This year's total represents a dramatic increase from the 16 teachers in a pilot program two years ago.

"We are thrilled to see that participation has really skyrocketed this year," says John M. Thomas, dean of the UB School of Management. "We are especially pleased that 71 percent of Buffalo public high schools now have a teacher registered to use MoneySKILL."

Thomas estimates that nearly two-thirds of high schools in the eight counties of Western New York now have teachers trained to use MoneySKILL, so the percentage of participants next year will be even higher.

MoneySKILL is a free, interactive Internet curriculum designed to educate students to make informed financial decisions on a variety of personal finance issues, including income, money management, spending, credit, saving and investing. It was developed by Lewis Mandell, professor emeritus of finance and managerial economics in the UB School of Management, in collaboration with the American Financial Services Association Education Foundation.

Local outreach to schools is being funded by a two-year, $50,000 grant from the M&T Charitable Foundation, and M&T has provided a significant amount of staff and volunteer support to work with the UB School of Management in this effort.

"Many area high school students are now getting the opportunity to learn personal finance skills before they leave high school. This puts them in a much better position to make smart financial decisions when they move on to college or a job," said M&T Bank President Mark J. Czarnecki.

"Ultimately, we would like to see every school in Western New York adopt this program and we are fast approaching that goal," Thomas adds. "As we gain momentum, I believe we can make a real difference in our community."

The need for such programs is greater than ever. Nationally, financial-literacy scores of high school seniors dropped from 52.4 percent in 2006 to 48.3 percent this year, according to Mandell, who, since 1997, has conducted a biennial nationwide survey for the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy to determine how well 12th graders know the basics of personal finance.

Those results were presented in April at a financial literacy event held by the Federal Reserve Bank. "In light of the problems that have arisen in the subprime mortgage market, we are reminded of how critically important it is for individuals to become financially literate at an early age so that they are better prepared to make decisions and navigate an increasingly complex financial marketplace," said Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Although New York State requires high school students to complete at least one-third of a semester of study in personal financial management, there are no resources to help schools achieve this objective, nor are there penalties for failing to do so.

The UB School of Management and M&T Bank provide free teacher training and technical support for MoneySKILL, making it easy for teachers to use. And because the program can be completed online by students outside of regular class time, teachers don't have to change their daily lesson plans.

In addition, a built-in grade book electronically records each student's test scores and course grade, and MoneySKILL is regularly updated as tax regulations and financial products and services change.

Teachers or school representatives interested in learning more about MoneySKILL should contact Cynthia Shore, assistant dean for corporate and community relations in the UB School of Management, at

The Wall Street Journal ranks the UB School of Management No. 9 in the nation among schools with strong regional recruiting bases. In addition, BusinessWeek ranks the school as one of the country's top 5 business schools for the fastest return on MBA investment, and Forbes cites it as one of the best business schools in the U.S. for the return on investment it provides MBA graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

M&T Bank, a subsidiary of M&T Bank Corporation (NYSE:MTB), was established in 1856 and is among the 20 largest commercial banks headquartered in the United States, with more than $66 billion in assets and more than 13,500 employees. M&T operates more than 680 full-service branches and a network of more than 1,600 ATMs in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Delaware.