Smith and nine other rising seniors at the Riverdale school worked for three weeks during summer vacation as tellers at local Capital One banks, training for a program considered unusual in the Washington area and the first of its kind in Prince George’s County. Their free periods at school will be spent as bankers at a new branch inside the high school.
Yes, an actual, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured, for-profit bank operating in a high school. It will disburse loans. There will be deposit slips, a security camera and even a vault to store the cash.
As educators across the nation are struggling to squeeze financial literacy lessons into a crowded school day, some hope the presence of financial institutions on campuses will raise students’ interest in interest rates.
During the past decade, the National Credit Union Administration has tracked the steady increase of nonprofit credit unions in schools nationwide to 355, including some in Montgomery County and Alexandria. In recent years, after a push from the federal government and an easing of banking regulations, their for-profit counterparts also have placed satellite institutions in high schools serving neighborhoods that often have a dearth of traditional banking services.
“This is our market, and we’re interested in helping with financial growth,” said Denise L. Pope, a regional executive vice president for Capital One. “And there’s a lot of excitement about this project and making sure students have financial literacy. All you have to do is look at the headlines to find out why it’s important.”
According to research from the Urban Institute, Parkdale students go to school in a Zip code where one in 10 homeowners is 90 days behind on paying a mortgage, one of the highest such rates in the state. They live in a state where federal data show one in five Hispanics and one in 10 black residents don’t have checking or savings accounts. And, of course, they live in a country where elected representatives are grappling over how to cut public expenses.
For Smith, larger economic worries seem distant as she prepares to muscle through an ambitious schedule of Advanced Placement classes in the school year that starts Monday. Her biggest immediate financial concern is buying her first car.
Educators and economists have labored since the 2008 financial crisis to figure out how to teach students such as Smith how they fit into the big picture.
In a push for students to become college-ready, concepts such as teaching them about managing credit and the importance of saving had fallen somewhat out of favor. But advocates say the need has never been greater. The independent Web site Finaid.org, analyzing 2008 federal education data, estimated that the average student would graduate from a four-year college with $23,186 in student loan debt.