Dollar pile

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“Preparing students for the financial world outside of high school is one major flaw of the US school system. Financial literacy debate was a way for me to help close that gap.” – Cayden Mayer, Central HS Debater 

More than half of all American students now have to go into debt to get through college, and average four-year loans now total over $31,000 per student. Current students are facing big decisions about how they should finance their future.

That’s where the Financial Literacy Leadership Debates come in!

Our Financial Literacy Leadership Debate program makes financial literacy engaging, relevant, and fun through competition. Students learn the fundamentals of financial literacy while advocating for multiple sides of a relevant financial topic.

This program was inspired by other UDL’s in NYC, Chicago, and the Bay area, where financial literacy increased by 35% after implementation.

Read more to learn how students “made cents” of their financial decisions in the 2021 virtual season. 


Our students are preparing to make crucial financial decisions soon. Financial Literacy Leadership Debates offer a clearer path.

In our pilot program, students have debated about auto financing versus taking public transportation after graduation. This year, students debated both sides of this resolution:

Resolved: Obtaining a 4-year degree is a better investment than obtaining alternative training such as a 2-year degree or apprenticeship.

In the process of debating multiple angles of this resolution, students demystified the pros and cons of attending a 2-year degree program or 4-year university.

In our format, students gain public speaking, critical thinking, and argumentation skills from debating, while also gaining subject-matter knowledge. Financial topics covered included both broad and specific concepts like supply and demand, earning potential, competition, Return on Investment, individual contribution to the economy, and of course- student loans and scholarships.

Cayden Mayer Portrait

Cayden Mayer is a policy debater at Central High School.

Cayden Mayer, who competes on the Central High School policy debate team, tells us:

“I learned that two year colleges can provide an education in fields that I wasn’t aware of. I had previously pictured two year degrees as mainly trade school degrees, but I learned that this is only a small portion of the education you can receive at a two year institution.” 

Students across Minneapolis and St. Paul engaged in this crucial topic.

Eleanor Central HS Portrait

Eleanor, who competes at Edison High School, shared thoughts on this year’s topic.

Eleanor, a current student at Edison High School adds:

“I thought this topic was something that most high school students can relate to, because everyone is trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.”


While learning financial literacy fundamentals, participants also gained a deeper understanding of the systemic structures that influence many students’ choices after graduation.

“The most impactful thing that I’ll take away from financial literacy debate is learning the discriminatory policies at elite 4 year institutions,” Cayden tells us. “I was aware of the discrimination beforehand, but looking at the statistics of the lack of support and benefits for those coming from middle to lower income families was devastating. There’s a lot of work to be done to help eliminate these policies and barriers to make higher education more accessible.” 


A Note of Gratitude

We postponed our 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to our coaches’ flexibility and community’s support, we were able to run Financial Literacy Leadership Debates all-virtually in 2021. This program was made possible by grants from the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and RBC Dain-Rauscher. We are grateful to be able to continue this critical conversation during a year when so many families are facing financial strains and difficult decisions. Our hope is to provide students with the tools to direct their own decisions, empower them to share their knowledge, and understand our economy and the potential for change.

With your support, our coaches and volunteer mentors empower students to make life-changing financial decisions with confidence. Your gift helps each of our year-round programs thrive. Become an Advocate for Debate- give us steady support monthly and maximizes your dollar’s impact.