Consumer Economics Program
The University of California Cooperative Extension has its roots in legislation which established the original Land-Grant University concept and, since its inception in 1914, has provided to U.S. citizens information and educational programs in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Sciences, Community Resource Development, and 4-H Youth Development. Its programs are designed to deliver the results of research and new knowledge to people located in communities beyond the land grant campuses to bring problems and information from individuals and communities back to campuses for exploration and research. UCCE is a public, non-profit educational institution exempt under Section 501(c)(3), and is a Hispanic Serving Institution (approved by the U.S. Dept. of Education on March 9, 2007).
The Consumer Economics Program develops financial management educational programs designed for limited-resource, low-literacy adults and youth. UCCE has a history of providing financial management education. Since the beginning of the Consumer Economics Program within the UCCE, programming has been proactive and based on offering clientele empowerment to be effective in consumer economics and personal financial management. The goal is to help others adopt new practices that will benefit them and their families. Multiple curricula have been developed that provide background information and an easy-to-follow and use curricula so that University professionals and other agencies using the materials can successfully implement money management and financial literacy information into their existing programs.
Karen P. Varcoe, Ph.D., the leader of the Consumer Economics program, is a University of California Cooperative Extension Specialist. She has been the Consumer Economics Specialist for California since 1981. Located at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), she is responsible for conducting research and developing educational outreach programs. These programs are available for use in cooperation with the UCCE county advisors or in cooperation with other external agencies and the military. Dr. Varcoe was recognized for her work and awarded the Distinguished Service Award in 1990 from the United States Department of Agriculture for programmatic and evaluation work with Money Sense. This program was developed for use with the military in California and led to several large grants to develop financial management and deployment curriculum for the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Marine Corps. Each of these programs was generously funded by the appropriate military branch. The funding was inclusive and provided for needs assessment, program development, pilot testing, evaluation, and international training of service personnel.
In response to welfare reform, the Gateway to a Better Life curriculum was developed. This welfare-to-work curriculum went from conception to completion is just 18 months. This 9 module, 24-lesson curriculum has been used successfully throughout California and in several other states. Financial assistance for development was received from the San Francisco Foundation’s Bank of America Consumer Education Fund. The result was a well-received curriculum. The development team was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from UCCE in 1999 for exemplary service to the people of California. The current revision of Gateway resulted in the Making Every Dollar Count curriculum which is a very flexible and unique program for low-literacy, limited-resource audiences. The curriculum is available in English and Spanish and is available for the classroom and/or online.
The Money Talks for Teens curriculum began in 1998 with a survey of teens to discover what they want to learn about personal finance. The curriculum has been quite successful and has won three National and two Western Regional awards as an outstanding financial literacy program. Grant funding from the Chase Foundation led to the development of the very popular Money Talks website.
The UCCE Consumer Economics programs have balance in terms of an academic footprint and developing new information to inform choices. All of the work includes conducting needs assessments, developing educational materials, pilot testing, evaluation, and peer review internally through UC and externally through professional societies and journals. Almost all of the financial management programs are in English and Spanish and written at a level that is appropriate for the intended audience, whether it be teens, limited-resource, low-literacy adults or specific audiences.
Connie Costello has been a part of the Consumer Economics Program at the University of California since 1981 working with all the programs that have been developed by the unit. She holds the Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) designation and contributes to the development of financial management materials for the office. She also serves as the office coordinator—the person who makes sure everything gets done on time and correctly.
Kerry Decker is a talented graphic designer who has worked with the Consumer Economics Program since 1993. His graphic designs have been used by the U.S. Army, USMC, USAF, and Department of the Defense as well as many other companies and institutions. He traveled extensively with the team to military installations for site visits and wrote the scripts for many of the videos produced for the military. He is also trained as a minister and counselor and has developed curricula for working with trafficked youth. As such, his expertise is very helpful when developing techniques for reaching individuals with technical information.
Jeanine Leary has been the Administrative Specialist for the Consumer Economics Program since 2000. As such, she is responsible for all the coordination, planning, billing and budgeting, personnel files, computer assistance, and other items to keep the office working efficiently.