About The Take Charge America Institute

The Institute’s mission is to create research-based educational outreach programs to improve financial literacy and help consumers to make informed financial choices in today’s complex markets. A major endowment gift to the University of Arizona in 2003 from the credit counseling agency Take Charge America established the Institute. Located in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, the TCAI has focused its efforts during its first five years on educating young people how to manage their finances and make informed choices as they move into adult life.

Educational Outreach:

The TCAI, in collaboration with Arizona Cooperative Extension, has developed and supports an array of financial education outreach programs including the Take Charge Cats, The Arizona Financial Face-off, Building Financial Security, and the Early Childhood Financial Literacy Lending Library.

The Institute’s “Take Charge Cats” program recruits and trains university students to be financial education ambassadors who present dozens of financial education seminars each semester on campus and in high schools and middle schools across the greater Tucson community. To complement the outreach to local schools, each year the Institute organizes and hosts a personal finance case study competition that brings several hundred of high school and middle school students to campus to analyze true-to-life cases of household financial distress and compete to offer the best solutions.

Building Financial Security is a 4-part series that takes an in-depth look at managing money offered through Cooperative Extension.  During weekly 2-hour classes, you will discuss four major questions: Why do I spend money the way I do?  How do I prepare for emergency costs? What are the costs of borrowing money? And, how do I read my credit report and score? 

The Early Childhood Financial Literacy Lending Library is a portable kit with children’s books and parent tip sheets located at select Early Childhood Education Centers to help parents of young children (ages 3 to 5) instill an understanding of money, the difference between needs and wants, and making choices, using children’s storybooks and supporting materials. 

To learn more about these educational programs, please visit our Education page.


Research provides the foundation of the Institute’s activities. To support and enhance its outreach programs the Institute works with scholars from the UA and other research universities, drawing from a wide variety of academic disciplines including behavioral finance and economics, psychology, sociology, consumer sciences and family studies. This interdisciplinary approach is expanding the research agenda to generate insights regarding consumer financial decisions. These insights guide the development of the Institute’s financial education workshops, curriculum and delivery methods. In addition, the Institute’s research agenda includes studies of the impact of existing financial education programs across the country to measure program effectiveness, including measures of subsequent change in behavior.