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 has developed an array of financial education outreach programs. Each academic year, hundreds of University of Arizona students take a 3-credit elective course developed by the Institute that focuses on the intersection of personal finance and American culture. Two other university courses developed through the Institute offer deeper exposure to personal finance topics as well as an introduction to the functioning of the retail financial services industry.

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.

Research: 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.