History of the Young Adult Consumer Education Trust
The impetus for forming the Young Adult Consumer Education trust was the result of a class action consumer lawsuit. In 1999 two Wenatchee Washington attorneys, Bob Parlette and Scott Kane, both of whom specialized in consumer credit issues, settled a class action lawsuit they had brought against Sears Roebuck. Sears had changed the terms of their credit card agreement and wrongfully, and retroactively, increased the interest rates that they had previously promised borrowers that they would have on their credit cards. Recognizing their error, Sears negotiated a nationwide class action settlement that refunded a portion of the ill gotten interest, a sum that was approximately $156 million.
Since Attorneys Parlette and Kane were the first to file the federal class action lawsuit, when it came time to negotiate the nationwide settlement with they had significant bargaining power, even though they had limited their class definition to borrowers just customers in the State of Washington. They were able to negotiate a settlement that called for Sears to pay an additional sum of $3.2 Million that would go into a cy pres fund for a public purpose. When the final terms of the settlement were inked, the plaintiff's attorneys and Sears agreed that the $3.2 Million should be dedicated to improving consumer education among young people.
Just before the settlement was reached, there had been an article in the USA Today that Parlette saw relating a story about two young college students in the State of Oklahoma who had signed up for credit cards while enrolling in their respective colleges. As a consequence of the easy credit given, and because neither of these students had received proper education on the dangers of over spending using easy credit, they were both independently racked up huge debt with their newly acquired credit cards which they had no means to repay. They were so distraught with the prospect of having to file bankruptcy and telling their parents about their financial difficulties that they both decided to take their own lives. As a result of reading this article, It was decided by the plaintiffs' attorneys and Sears to establish a non-profit organization that would develop free curriculum that could be used in high schools throughout the United States to teach financial literacy. As a consequence, the Young Adult Consumer Education Trust (YACET) was formed in 1999 with this stated purpose.
A Board of Directors was selected, by-laws adopted, and the project officially started up in January of 2000. It was quickly decided that there would not be sufficient money to publish or print text books, much less take care of the cost of distribution. The Board of Trustee of YACET decided that the $3.2 million cy pres trust fund could best be utilized by developing curriculum and distributing it over the internet. In this way, the curriculum could be easily updated and the cost of printing and mailing avoided. The Young Adult Consumer Education Trust applied for IRS non-profit status and it was granted in late 2001.
The Young Adult Consumer Education Trust engaged the services of the Educational Service District (ESD)of North Central Washington to apply for additional grants and to develop a web site that could be hosted by the ESD. In turn, the ESD would assisted in developing curriculum in five (5) different areas:
1. Consumer Credit;
2. Purchasing Your First Car;
3. Living on Your Own (Landlord/Tenant Issues);
4. Internet Fraud; and
5. Consumers Cell Phone Plans.
The Board decided that the name of the new web site would be called the “Consumer Jungle”. This reflected the truth that the plethora of advertising and the push to sell products to young people really did create a jungle where there were always traps and dangers lurking for the naive, gullible and uninformed consumers.
YACET was the official sponsor of the Consumer Jungle web site which could be accessed by teachers, parents and students. The Educational Service District understandably took a conventional view of the educational process and tailored the curriculum so that it could be utilized by teachers in the various high schools. It was decided early by the Board, however, that since so few states mandated consumer education, that they wanted to tailor the Consumer Jungle curriculum so it could be utilized by any teacher irrespective of whatever course they might teach. Many teachers believe that financial and consumer literacy are extremely important to the over all success of their students and they wanted it to be included in lessons in whatever course that they might teach, whether it be mathematics, history, English, or home economics.
This down and dirty approach proved to be very successful and the Board quickly received many positive comments about the relevant content and the ease of use of the curriculum that was developed. In short, teachers could pick and choose the portions of the curriculum that they wished to utilize, and tailor it to their own needs.
After the curriculum was fully developed, the web site was officially launched on October 17, 2001. The web site was dedicated to the two Oklahoma teens whose suicides were related to the misuse of consumer credit: Sean Moyer and Mitsy Poole.
Just three months later In February 2002, USA Today Educational On-line named the Consumer Jungle web site as a “best bet” for teachers and students to use. YACET also became part of the Jump Start consortium of organizations interested in financial literacy for young people. In March of 2002, the Consumer Jungle web site was nominated as a “cool web site” at www.4kids.org. Consumer Jungle curriculum was quickly recognized as being relevant and easy to use by well over 8,000 teachers in high schools throughout the United States. Its curriculum was ultimately recommended for use in many of the 50 states by the various departments of public instruction. In fact, web based materials have been utilized around the entire globe in places as fall away as New Zealand, Australia, and Turkey.
In May of 2002 the YACET Board decided to hire its own executive director to continually refresh the curriculum in an attempt to develop other partnerships with which to leverage our resources. The Board recognized that it is extremely difficult to get officially into schools from the top down, and to get the curriculum introduced from the bottom up would require attendance at many teacher conferences and mailings to help spread the word, an expense the Board chose to avoid. YACET had summaries of its course offerings printed in collaboration with NIE (Newspapers In Education) in many cities throughout the USA. In 2008 YACET added a very popular segment to its curriculum relating to health issues for young adults
The Board had always had an under lying desire to capitalize on the internet gaming craze and wanted to create a high-end video game that could impart financial literacy and consumer education to users without the users even knowing it. The YACET board felt it could attract young people to their website to play these educational games and thereby catch many who might otherwise fall through the cracks in the more formal class room settings in high school. The video game idea was easier said than done. It was quickly learned that a high-end video internet game might well cost over $1Million - $2Million to develop, and YACET didn’t have the resources to do that.
YACET was one of the earliest developers of free financial and consumer curriculum that could be downloaded from the Internet. In 2009 the YACET Board learned that they were not alone however. The University of Arizona and the Take Charge America Institute (TCAI) that is located on the U of A campus also had developed free curriculum that could be used in the high schools. An inquiry was soon made as to whether or not TCAI was interested in merging its curriculum and efforts with those produced by YACET. It was recognized by those at the University of Arizona there were distinct differences in the YACET “bite sized” curriculum and their conventional semester long course offerings designed for home economics classes. Both YACET and TCAI liked the idea of a merger.
After initial discussions about utilizing more effectively the interactivity offered by Web2.0, the TCAI and YACET Boards both saw merits of having an independent web site which could be in part developed created by input from the user. This approach could capture the creative juices of anyone interested in sharing their consumer experiences and might result in clever games, question and answer resources, videos, discussion groups. It was felt that a user friendly website that was largely the result of interactive input from the users themselves and could attract many students who might otherwise not take a financial literacy course in high school. Such a collaborative website could also be quickly responsive to the latest consumer trends in the fast moving world of the Internet. All that would be needed is a hosting agency and an independent monitor to keep the website on task, and keep it from getting abusive. The University of Arizona /TCAI team agreed to undertake that role with financial help from YACET.
As a consequence, in summer of 2010 the two Boards decided to merge their curriculums and to devote additional resources to developing a new “Consumer Jungle” web site that would be monitored, but largely developed and utilized by the end users themselves. Throughout 2011, TCAI, with input from the YACET Board, developed a new Consumer Jungle web site which was launched in October of 2011. The new web site has been well received and both YACET and the University of Arizona expect increased utilization. The two organizations now intend to focus their effort on soliciting other foundations and partners in the process of supporting this web site and developing high-end games that could impart financial literacy while the user is having fun. The YACET Board remains dedicated to supporting the Consumer Jungle web site and enhancing its usability.