January 19, 2024

Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa Partners with Mount Mercy University to Pilot New Experiential Learning Program

Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa (JAEI) partnered with Mount Mercy University to pilot the Busse Foundation JA Finance Park® Mobile learning experience. The event was honored with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Mount Mercy’s campus on January 17, 2024, followed by a 2-day student engagement experience, where Mount Mercy’s Personal Financial Planning class got to interact with the exhibit and local business leaders.

The occasion celebrated Junior Achievement’s first mobile capstone program for personal financial planning and career exploration. It also marked the beginning of a new era for the nonprofit as it expands from it’s typical K-12 audience into teaching financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and career readiness to young adults.

“For nearly 60 years, Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa has been focused on inspiring students through financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship education in the K-12 setting,” said Dr. Nate Klein, Vice President of Education for JAEI. “For the first time in our history locally—as well as the first time in the nation—we are thrilled to partner with Mount Mercy University to provide post-secondary students with the JA Finance Park® capstone curriculum and an experience that engages them in hands-on learning to shape their financial future,” Klein continued.

JA Finance Park® Mobile, presented by the Busse Foundation, combines educator-led learning with a hands-on, immersive budgeting simulation. Students enrolled in BA 240: Personal Financial Planning, taught by Assistant Professor for Business Seth Pennock, completed two weeks of in-class preparation prior to stepping into the mobile city.

“The Busse Foundation is dedicated to supporting opportunities that enable members of our community to grow and thrive,” said Jeff Busse, Executive Director of the Busse Foundation. “The Foundation aims to invest in programs that help children flourish, support, and empower families, and advance educational opportunities. The Foundation is excited to partner with JA in its JA Finance Park® programming to further the mission of equipping young people with the financial tools necessary for success.”

The JA Finance Park® curriculum culminates with a visit to their mobile city, The Busse Foundation JA Finance Park®, to provide hands-on learning with volunteer mentors. In the simulation exercise, students identify their preferred career, navigate expenses, and reality-check their financial assumptions about their future.

“We believe this unique opportunity will connect their college education, career aspirations, and financial future in a way that will be memorable and inspire their choice-filled lives,” Klein said.

Upon entering The Busse Foundation JA Finance Park® Mobile, each student is provided a tablet with a randomly generated “life persona” – a personal profile with the details of their “adult life,” including job title, annual salary, age, marital status, debt, savings, and credit score.

Students visit life-like store fronts, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of the line items in their monthly budget. They make choices on transportation, groceries, buying or renting a home, obtaining loans, insurance, savings accounts, investments, and charities—balancing up to 22 expenses without exceeding their budget. By the end of the simulation, students recognize that the decisions they make about education and their career will have an impact on their potential income and quality of life.