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How Businesses Can Foster Financial Literacy And Help Students Realize Their Potential

The workplace is evolving both in ways we can predict and in ways we cannot. Because the jobs of the future, due largely to emerging technologies, will require new skills and novel ways of solving problems and approaching tasks. Because we will need a workforce that is both stable and adaptable.

For individuals and organizations to reach their potential and prepare for the jobs of the future, they need access to opportunities and resources. With the costs of college rising, a collective $1.3 trillion in student loan debt has saddled young graduates, who are often unable to find jobs that allow them to pay it off, let alone launch a business or buy a home, like those in previous generations did at this stage in life.

Meanwhile, the gap in access is widening. In fact, wealth disparities are greater in the U.S. than in any other major developed nation, and African-American and Hispanic communities in inner cities find themselves disproportionately at the low end of the divide. This inequality has been generations in the making, but we must not wait any longer to address it. Preparing students with financial know-how is as important a step in their educational growth as helping them learn to interpret the world around them and reach their career potential.

We must work together to help young people be college-ready, to create education and training opportunities beyond the traditional classroom for workers who need to retool their skills, and find ways to help college students get off to a good start in their professional careers so that oppressive debt doesn’t stifle their potential. Businesses that commit to responsibly supporting their employees as well as the communities of families, educators and students they touch can help bring about this urgently needed change.

Responsible business initiatives that will help address these issues won’t look the same for every company. We can bring the greatest benefit by leveraging our businesses’ unique assets, strengths and resources. At PwC, we are celebrating milestones of our largest responsible business initiatives: reaching more than 3.5 million students and educators through our $190 million Earn Your Future™ (EYF) commitment to financial literacy, and marking the one-year anniversary of our Student Loan Paydown (SLP) program, which, happily, is becoming a more common business practice.

Today at Washington Ideas Forum, I’m taking the stage with Dee-1 to talk about financial literacy and student loans. A new and unlikely collaborator for PwC, Dee-1 is a popular hip-hop artist and former middle-school math teacher who will be embarking on an EYF and SLP Celebration Tour, visiting high schools and colleges to help us lead discussions on the importance of understanding financial concepts such as budgeting, debt and student loans.

The work we are doing together reflects how much we’ve learned about teaching financial literacy since we launched EYF four years ago, while reminding us of our biggest lesson: We must always evolve the way we educate and engage students. We’re shifting how we think about teaching and learning — and this is just the beginning.

Dee-1 has taken hold of PwC's social channels. Follow @PwC_LLP on Snapchat and Twitter and visit PwC's Facebook page to see the latest and join in the conversation.