(L-R): Cowin program faculty director and Teachers College professor Anand Marri, Justin Tuck, Lauran Tuck, Teachers College trustee and program founder Joyce B. Cowin.
Teachers College, Columbia University gathered financial education experts, advocates, and educators on April 21 to highlight its Cowin Financial Literacy Program, and to announce that a professional development course in financial literacy will be available free online to teachers nationwide.
“This new online course will enable us to reach more teachers who can, in turn, bring financial literacy to more students across the country,” said Anand Marri, Associate Professor of Social Studies & Education at Teachers College, and the program’s chief engineer.
“The Cowin Financial Literacy Program is built on the principle that people learn best by doing, as first espoused by John Dewey a century ago at Teachers College,” said Marri. “It also reflects TC’s belief that the best way to approach any educational or social problem is to teach the teachers.”
The 14-week course, which will be taught by Marri and a doctoral student, will draw from the program’s original case studies to teach basic financial concepts, including budgeting, planning, credit, risk, consumption, savings, investments and diversification.
The course, which will provide 30 hours of professional development credit, will be offered twice a year beginning in January 2017. It will be offered for free to teachers in its first year through support from the program’s benefactor and founder, Joyce Cowin. The course will build on the program’s annual Summer Institute at Teachers College, which has provided free professional development to over 200 teachers from across the country over the past three summers.
During the event, former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and his wife, Lauran Tuck, delivered the keynote speech and were honored with the inaugural Joyce Berger Cowin Champions Award for Financial Literacy Advocacy, Education and Leadership. The couple founded TUCK’s R.U.S.H. for Literacy to help close the opportunity gap for low-income and minority kids around literacy.
“My number one passion off the field is children's literacy,” said Justin Tuck. “In life, just as in football, you need to be prepared financially for the unexpected.” He noted that the Cowin program case study about an athlete who has just signed a multi-million contract resonated with him. An athlete’s time on the field is limited, and an injury could mean an abrupt end to the most promising career.
“I am honored to receive this award, and to be in the company of Joyce Cowin, who has done such a great job of building awareness of the need for financial literacy education for all citizens,” added Tuck.
As part of the evening, the Cowin Financial Literacy Program convened a panel of experts who spoke about the serious need for financial literacy. The panelists included Marri; Dan Kadlec, contributor, TIME and Money magazines; moderator Beth Kobliner, author of The New York Times bestseller Get a Financial Life; Carol Loomis, retired Fortune Senior Editor-at-Large; and Stacey Tisdale, Senior Editor – Personal Finance, Black Enterprise. The panelists agreed that a multi-pronged approach involving teachers, students, and their families—and which, like the Cowin program, appeals to real-life experiences—is most effective.
“I think we’re starting to build a body of evidence that shows financial education is effective,” said Kadlec. “The critics want more, and we have to give it to them. We’re getting there, and I think we’ve just got to stay with it.”
Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman called the Cowin program “one of the most innovative and effective financial literacy programs ever. There’s just none like this.”
“We’re celebrating the phenomenal growth and impact of a unique financial literacy program that began as a pilot in New York City in 2012. And since its national roll-out last summer, the Cowin program has expanded from 11 states to—at last count—46 states plus the District of Columbia,” she added.
The Cowin Financial Literacy Program is unique among the hundreds of financial literacy programs targeted to students in that it helps high school teachers grasp and use financial principles, and pass them on to their students. The program consists of nine case studies, each of which poses a financial problem or question that a typical family might face, and to which teenagers can relate. Through these cases, available for free download, students learn to work toward solutions by evaluating competing and conflicting points of view.