Mount Ellis Students Explore Personal Finance

For the 57th winter season, Mount Ellis Academy (MEA) is operating the Bear Canyon Ski area in Bozeman, Mont., for students and local church members. Students have access to the groomed run twice a week and enjoy snowboarding, skiing and sledding. Some play games in the adjacent ski lodge, while others read around the large fireplace or do homework. For some, that homework is for a new class offered this year: Personal Finance.

When MEA hired Brian Schaffner as the new vice president for finance, he expressed excitement not only to work at MEA but also at the opportunity to teach. Students have long studied accounting, and continue to, but Schaffner proposed the idea of a class specifically intended to teach the importance of saving and the dangers of credit.

This Personal Finance class, utilizing the financial principles of American financial expert Dave Ramsey, had a high enrollment, and, according to Schaffner, the first year was a big success.

 "It's very rewarding to see students grasp these financial principles and talk about making positive financial decisions in their adult lives," says Schaffner. "In my opinion, classes like these have not been offered often enough in our schools. It's vital that young people today understand the upsides of budgeting as well as the pitfalls of poor money management."

Recent class participant Christine Gibbs, an MEA senior, says the class not only made her aware of things she did not know, it started her thinking more seriously about the important role money plays in the life of a responsible adult. "I really thought I'd take Personal Finance because I needed the credit and assumed it would be an easy A," admits Gibbs. "But as the class developed and we looked more seriously at the financial principles based on biblical teachings, I could see that I had a lot to think about when I start a career and make my own money. It was informative and fun, most of the time anyway. And I still got my A."

With the favorable response his class received this year, Schaffner is looking forward to expanding more young minds next fall as they once again become disciplined in fiscal solvency. "You never know which of these young people might have my job one day" says Schaffner, "and I want to ensure they have a good foundation both in accounting and in their own finances so they can do their very best at this or any job."

Featured in: March 2016