Financial Independence Training (FIT Academy) has been reviewed by CSUSB Consulting team. LINK to Study
Financial Independence Training Evaluation Executive Summary Introduction The purpose of this program evaluation was to identify the intended and unintended outcomes of participation in the Financial Independence Training (FIT) program (FIT Academy), a financial literacy program designed to increase the financial knowledge and skills of foster youth participants. The following is a summary of the evaluation findings, conclusions, and recommendations for program improvements.
Findings As evidenced by a 37.9% average increase in financial literacy test scores over a 4-year period and positive themes identified through interviews with program alumni, the FIT Academy has been successful in meeting its primary goal of increasing students’ financial knowledge and skills. Alumni described both behavioral and attitudinal changes in their financial knowledge and skills as a result of participation in the FIT Academy, including the development of financial self-awareness, a sense of personal responsibility, and acquired skills in money management that continued to be used after completing the program. Most participants reported that they had successfully maintained a budget for 6 months after completion of the FIT Academy, fulfilling the program’s second objective. Last, the majority of participants reported that they had a savings habit by consistently allocating money into their newly opened savings accounts, indicating the program accomplished its third objective.
In addition to meeting its three main goals, the FIT Academy produced several positive, serendipitous outcomes. Using a semi-structured interview, we found that social support from instructors, staff, and peers increased students’ knowledge of financial resources and their ability to access these resources in times of need. Mentoring, role-modeling, and sharing personal anecdotes helped to build relationships with and educate students, while the provision of monetary support, such as gift cards, gas cards, and rental assistance incentivized students to return to class each week. Furthermore, alumni indicated that their participation in the FIT Academy was influential in increasing their community engagement by providing opportunities
to give back and pay it forward. Several alumni had become mentors and FIT Academy instructors, instilling positive feelings of being a part of the United Way community. Last, we note that the instructor exerts a strong, positive impact upon the students. His conversational, personable teaching style, compassion, consistent guidance and support were seen as valuable and sometimes unanticipated. In all, participation in the FIT Academy improved students’ financial knowledge and skills, connected students to valuable financial resources, provided social and financial support, and instilled lasting behavioral and attitudinal changes in saving and spending.