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DSU, Charles Schwab unveil new Financial Literacy Institute

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Only 45% of Delaware residents are financially literate, according to Dr. Michael Casson. DSU hopes to improve financial literacy outcomes.

The Charles Schwab Financial Literacy Institute at Delaware State University was celebrated Tuesday, April 2. | PHOTO BY JENNIFER ANTONIK

DOVER — Only 45% of Delaware residents are financially literate, according to Delaware State University’s Dr. Michael Casson. DSU hopes to drive that number drastically up with the new Charles Shwab Financial Literacy Institute at the state’s only historically Black university.

A rolling stock ticker and newly renovated financial lab will work to increase financial literacy in students at DSU and in nearby areas thanks to a four-year grant from Schwab Advisor Services in partnership with the Charles Schwab Foundation. 

The two groups teamed up to make financial education more accessible by renovating the Financial Network Trading Room inside DSU’s Bank of America Building. The project was made possible through a four-year grant from Charles Schwab, the largest publicly traded brokerage business in the United States. Officials cut the ribbon on the newly-completed renovation on Tuesday.

“Once this came into place, it brought with it the opportunity of being able to do equitable research for us. And now, we have industry leaders come in to open up our eyes to new pathways we really didn’t think about before,” DSU accounting major Alex Portillo told the Delaware Business Times.

Portilla is the president of DSU’s Investment Club and is set to graduate this year. He said the development is an exciting way to share financial literacy at the campus now and for students to come both at the university and beyond its doors, as well.

“On top of that, we’re trying to share financial literacy. So, around Dover, too, we’re trying to get more into the schools so the kids can understand more and show them how it works. There’s not a lot of financial literacy going around. This right here will help a lot of people,” he added.

DSU and Charles Schwab started a partnership in 2021 to support the university’s financial planning curriculum which included classroom renovation, according to a press release.

Casson, the dean of DSU’s College of Business, called the unveiling a “momentous occasion,” telling the group in attendance that solutions require collaboration and that’s exactly what DSU and the Fortune 500 company have done. 

“The financial literacy institute was inspired by the problem of financial literacy, wellness and resilience in our most distressed communities,” he said. “True to our mantra, we were looking for partners to find a solution to this problem and we need not look any further than the Charles Schwab Foundation.”

According to Casson, the foundation has “fully leaned in with their time, talent and resources” to help make the Financial Literacy Institute possible. 

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, who recently announced his candidacy for governor, attended the ribbon cutting event and laid out its importance with more statistics. 

“In 2015, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston did research, you should look it up, it’s called ‘The Color of Wealth. . .’ They asked a simple question: if you look at the net worth of residents in Boston, Massachusetts, if you look at Blacks and whites, what is the net worth of each group,” Meyer said. “They found that in 2015, whites in Boston had a net worth of $247,500. . . and Blacks had a net worth of $8. . . That was nine years ago and it was in Boston; it wasn’t in Dover. You hope that times have changed but I think we ought to be honest with ourselves that things haven’t changed that much.”

That statistic, according to Boston’s NPR station WBUR, requires background knowledge — including the fact that only 71 black, non-immigrant families were included in the survey for that research. However, critics maintain that the findings still show an incredible racial gap when it comes to wealth. 

“You can listen to data like that and really get discouraged and say, ‘Man, that’s a huge gap. What can we do as a community and as a society to address that gap?’ And I can’t stand up here and say that I have all of the solutions, but I can say that this right here is part of that solution,” Meyer told attendees. 

Charles Schwab’s Advisor Services Director Sherri Trombley encouraged students in attendance to utilize the services provided through the Financial Literacy Institute and consider opportunities in the financial industry.

“This new lab space, we’re so excited about, will provide hands-on learning and training to help you prepare what’s available in the financial industry and we know the opportunity is there,” she said. “We know that with the current growth rates, and ROI history, and with what the market is looking like, we need to hire 70,000 individuals over the next five years to support that growth… The opportunity is there when we’re talking about opportunity. . . . This space being here really puts DSU kind of on that forefront really to prepare you for your next career in the industry. ”

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