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New program makes learning about finance fun for Illinois students

Bruce Rauner watches senior Kim Dentuse an educatiweb based program learn financial skills. The Rauner Family Foundatiannounced funding provide web-based

Bruce Rauner watches senior Kim Denton use an education web based program to learn financial skills. The Rauner Family Foundation announced funding to provide the web-based financial education software to Illinois Public Schools during a program at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, Wednesday, December 12, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 14, 2013 6:39AM

AURORA — Finance will be a lot more fun for thousands of Illinois seniors, thanks to a new program being made available at schools across the state.

On Wednesday, at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, the Rauner Family Foundation announced that it will bring critical financial literacy education to every school in Illinois though its Financial Scholars Program. The interactive, web-based financial management program aims to make complicated and often boring financial situations approachable to students.

More than 100 high schools are already using the technology, including all of the Indian Prairie School District high schools.

The computer program focuses on more than 600 topics in financial education through the use of video, animation, gaming, avatars and social networking.

“We’re all about to go off to college, and knowing this stuff now is better so we can make smarter choices with money in the future,” said senior Adam Cielinski as he navigated through a simulation.

The most valuable lesson he’s learned so far? To keep credit card payments current, and interest payments down.

Cielinski and other members of his Consumer Economics course will eventually earn their certification in financial literacy after completing 10 units and six hours of programming on credit scores, insurance, credit cards, student loans, mortgages, taxes, stocks, savings and other critical financial concepts.

“Without this class, the only info I had was the little I learned from my parents,” Cielinski said. “Going through this (program) taught me about finance, and how to make educated choices in the future.”

To Bruce Rauner, the retired Chicago financial executive whose foundation helped bring the technology to every Illinois school, financial education of today’s youth is critical.

“This program is very important to me,” Rauner said. “We’ve seen the pain of the recession. It’s important for every American to understand debt and saving, and a program like this makes it accessible to every student. We’re using the power of technology to improve the education system.”

Metea senior Kim Denton said the benefits are endless. Through the program, she’s learned the importance of saving for her college education.

“I feel like in the regular classroom setting, this stuff doesn’t stick,” she said. “The teacher sits in front of the class with a Power Point, and we take notes,” but watching real world situations unravel in the online world created by the Everfi technology helps solidify her financial decisions.

“It’s a fun way to learn the basics we need,” she said.

Everfi Chief Executive Officer Tom Davidson said that there is “no lack of bad advice” to be gotten about finances, and that his program aims to help reinforce positive financial decision-making among students.

“Bruce (Rauner) has created a scenario where every district in the state has access to this program if they want it,” he said as he watched students set up car loan payments online, manage virtual 401-K programs, take out student loans and tend to credit card debt.

“To get (your financial situation) right, and get it right early puts you in a fantastic place. And, it’s not that hard to do,” Davidson said.

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