Dubuque students learn financial literacy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque students learn financial literacy

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

While members of US Congress debate a solution to the debt ceiling, students in Dubuque are diving into financial literacy. It's a coincidence that makes the latter all the more important.

Republican leaders in the US House of Representatives announced a plan Friday to address the debt ceiling. They say they'll take up legislation next week that would authorize a three-month temporary debt limit increase to allow Congress to pass a budget. According to the proposed legislation, if members of Congress fail to pass a budget by the extended deadline, they won't get paid.

While that debate rages on in Washington, students in Dubuque got a life lesson in budgeting, too.

For Soraya Dorvilier, an eighth grader at Washington Middle School, budget balancing is a daunting topic.

"I guess it will be good for me once I get a job and stuff so that I know how to handle money and what it's going to be like, but right now, yeah, it's a bit overwhelming," she said Friday morning in class.

She is one of 100 Washington Middle School students to experience a class this week called the Real Life Zone. Led by University of Dubuque college students in a finance course, the class gives each middle school student a hypothetical life situation, including career, level of education and salary and then teaches them how to budget.

"My annual salary is 27,721 dollars," Dorvilier said, looking at the sheet of paper with her statistics she received at random. "I just took off 315 dollars for tax."

Amy Gaffney is the associate director of student financial planning at the University of Dubuque and helped lead the class Friday.

"The more we can educate them and the more often they hear about this, then hopefully they will be conscious of their decisions and understanding that, 'When I'm spending more than I make, that's going to lead me to a not very positive outcome, I'm not going to have a lot of opportunity,'" she said.

The middle school students' financial awareness grew as the amount in their pretend bank accounts dwindled due to budgeting for needs such as groceries and transportation.

"I'm running out of money!" Dorvilier laughed.

She said the exercise gave her a newfound appreciation for what it means to support a family.

"Now I know kind of how my mom feels with health insurance and groceries and just doing everyday things," Dorvilier said.

Tammy Oldenburg teaches the middle school students who went through the program.

"I think they're just realizing that they can't afford, they can't have everything they want, so it's needs versus wants," she said. My goal is for my students to, when they leave the class, be able to come up with a financial plan and a personal plan, make goals and be able to live as responsible citizens."

Teachers said they also hope education like this will positively impact the economy in coming decades.

"If we can, each household, work towards more and more of having the positive numbers at the end of the month, then hopefully that will alleviate those governmental decisions having to be made," Gaffney said. "We'll have people not living on credit, so to speak, which will have a chain effect and will impact to the levels of government, of course, but as individual people, individual consumers making those decisions."

It's a lesson that makes dollars and sense.

"The fact that we are learning this today and at our age is very important because in just a couple of years we're allowed to get jobs," Dorvilier, 13, said. "I think that that's really important that you kind of think about that in eighth grade. Maybe even younger, if they let you."

Students also discussed the value of getting higher education and the basics of student loans.

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