So this is cool.
H&R Block, the tax services provider, believes that mastering financial matters is an important adult life skill, but that teenagers aren’t being prepared for the challenge. So the company developed a teen financial literacy program that takes the form of an online game.
The game is played over nine weeks’ time in a high school classroom, and students play both classroom vs. classroom and student vs. student. Oh, and it’s free.
Here’s how it works:
Each student plays the part of a recent college graduate who has been out of school and working for six months. He or she gets a paycheck, a bank account, a 401(k), and bills to pay, including car and student loan payments. And has to set up accounts for things like cell phones and cable (which in my experience may be harder than paying the bills for those things).
Students are scored based on three things:
- Behavior (how often they play, how frequently their payments are late, and taking quizzes),
- Knowledge (how accurately the students answer financial quiz questions)
- Skill (how well they save and avoid late fees)
In addition to the simulation, teachers teach lessons (using plans and materials given to them as part of the program) that tie into what the students are doing in the game.
Big Scholarship Money is Available
Obviously, everyone’s a winner when taking part in a program like this, but there are some monetary winners, too. As part of the Budget Challenge, H&R Block gave away $3 million in grants and scholarships in 2014-15, and will again in 2015-16.
- $20,000 scholarships for each of the 22 students who have the top scores in their nine-week simulation period (132 scholarships in all).
- 60 total classroom grants of $5000 each, based on the scores at both the midpoint and end of each simulation period.
- A $100,000 scholarship for the highest-scoring student overall, to add to the $20,000 he or she has already won.
Recently, H&R Block announced the $120,000 winner for the 2014-15 Budget Challenge. He’s Sean Lawrence from St. Clair, Michigan, and he had the best score out of 93,980 students taking part in the program. Sean plans to major in Chemical Engineering by studying first at Macomb Community College, and then finishing up at Western Michigan University.
That $120,000 should certainly come in handy.
How to Take Part in 2015-16
The Budget Challenge will start up again this fall in classrooms around the country. It’s free, but teachers must register their classrooms in order for students to play. Registration closes one week before the start date of the simulation.
Accredited public and private schools and home schools are eligible to participate in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Students must be 14 years or older and enrolled full-time in grades 9-12 to take part.
More information, including FAQ and Official Rules can be found at the H&R Block Dollars & Sense website.
So, teachers: get signed up. And parents: contact your children’s teachers to encourage them to take part.
Scholarship money aside, the life lessons learned could be invaluable.
Thank you to H&R Block for sponsoring this post.