Screengrab from the Junior Achievement Teens and Personal Finance Survey.
Screengrab from the Junior Achievement Teens and Personal Finance Survey. Credit: Contributed photo / Junior Achievement Teens and Personal Finance Survey.

Teens are becoming more aware of the cost of higher education, and appear to be adjusting how they will move forward after high school, a recent study on teen financial literacy has found. 

The fifth annual JA Teens and Personal Finance Survey, released by Junior Achievement and Citizens, found that 69% of teens say that rising education costs have impacted their plans to continue their education after high school, with 28% saying they will only consider in-state schools, and 22% planning to live at home and commute to college.

The technology needed to pursue higher education was a concern, according to the survey results. 

Sixty-six percent of teens surveyed said they are concerned about the cost of technology needed to earn a four-year degree, with 52% worried about purchasing devices, and 28% worried about getting  access to WiFi.  Wakefield Research conducted the survey of 1,000 teens between the ages of 13 and 18 in February.

Jeremy Race, president and CEO of Junior Achievement Southwest New England, said the need for financial literacy – April is Financial Literacy Month – grows more and more every year. The program has three pillars – financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship – and is mostly delivered in school classrooms by volunteers from all types of career paths. 

“We are very lucky to have such strong relationships with so many school systems in Connecticut,” Race said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Race said JA reached 50,000 students through its various programs. Last school year, the program virtually served 16,000 but coordinators hope to reach between 20,000 and 25,000 students this year. 

“That’s pretty remarkable considering we’ve had a very challenging couple of years,” Race said. 

Like many programs, JA had to pivot in response to the pandemic. 

“In other ways, we stayed supportive. For the first six months (of the pandemic), we didn’t run any programs, but we made a pledge,” Race said. “We purchased with our own dollars COVID supplies, PPE supplies, and donated them to dozens and dozens of schools in Connecticut.” 

He said that now more schools are welcoming back the program in-person, and it couldn’t come at a better time. 

“At the end of the day, even though things have been challenging for the past two years, I think the study found that people need financial education now more than ever,” Race said. “The need for what JA brings has not changed. If anything, it has gotten stronger.” 

JA started in Connecticut a program called JA Steps to Success – the only JA area in the country to offer it – a financial literacy program for students all over the state, with students attending the virtual program from all over the state, both urban and suburban areas, from the comfort of their homes, Race said. 

When talking about the different programs JA has and is still coming up with, Race said he recalls one sentence he heard during a speech about finance education and financial literacy. 

“Why do we look at that differently than teaching kids to drive a car,” Race said. “We send out students who graduated from high school and college to the real world without a basic foundation for financial knowledge.”