JA Finance Park® Program Changes Minds of Middle School Students on Importance of Money Management, Study Shows

Junior Achievement USA® announced today that research conducted by the independent RMC Research Corporation and the JA Education Group shows that six out of seven students who initially didn’t think it was important to manage their money, changed their minds in a favorable direction after participating in the JA Finance Park® program. 

In Fall 2010, in partnership with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and signature sponsor Capital One, Junior Achievement of Greater Washington opened the doors to the first JA Finance Park® in Greater Washington on the grounds of Robert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, VA. JA Finance Park® Fairfax County brings in-depth, experiential financial literacy education to 14,000 8th grade students each year.

In partnership with Prince George's County Public Schools, JA Finance Park® Prince George’s County opened during the fall of 2015 in Landover, MD and serves approximately 9,000 students annually. It is located on the campus of Cora L. Rice Elementary/James G. Gholson Middle Schools just down the road from FedEx field.

A third facility, JA Finance Park® Montgomery County is scheduled to open in 2018 and will transform another 12,000 students annually into Finance Park graduates. It will be located on the fourth floor of the new Thomas Edison High School of Technology building in Silver Spring. 

Both of these additional partnerships were made possible by the partnerships of the local school systems and capital funding from Capital One.

The combination of JA Finance Park®’s financial literacy curriculum and experiential learning program increases the financial capability of middle school students who participate. According to the Center for Financial Inclusion, financial capability is: “(T)he combination of attitude, knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy needed to make and exercise money management decisions that best fit the circumstances of one's life, within an enabling environment that includes, but is not limited to, access to appropriate financial services.”

Some of the findings of the evaluation include:

  • Students who participated in JA Finance Park® demonstrated more financial literacy knowledge than comparison students.
  • The average Effect Size for financial literacy knowledge gain was “moderate-to-large,” indicating a meaningful gain in knowledge by participating students.
  • Students who participated in JA Finance Park® demonstrated positive attitude changes across all dimensions of interest.
  • Students, teachers, volunteers, and JA® staff all affirmed the value of JA Finance Park®.

“The combination of financial literacy curriculum and real world scenarios students are presented with in the JA Finance Park® experience serve as a real ‘wake up’ call to students who go through the program,” said Joe Thomas, Ph.D., Vice President, Evaluation and Research for Junior Achievement USA. “This evaluation shows that students not only gain a better understanding of financial concepts as part of this program, but will be more inclined to exhibit financially responsible behavior in the future.”

“KPMG is committed to fostering future generations of leaders and this evaluation is proof positive that our strategic investments of time, passion and funding in JA Finance Park are making a difference,” said Sue Townsen, National Managing Partner of Human Resources, Diversity and Corporate Responsibility at KPMG. “We’re especially gratified that the financial literacy curriculum we helped redevelop is boosting the financial capability of students, while introducing them to important concepts like budgeting, insurance, credit and long-term investments.”

The JA Finance Park program is composed of 13 required teacher-taught, in-class lessons. It culminates in a hands-on budgeting simulation that is implemented either at a JA Finance Park facility, mobile unit, or virtual site. The curriculum for JA Finance Park® was developed with the support of KPMG. The executive summary of the study and the full report are available online. Click here to see JA Finance Park in action.