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In the name of education.

Prices are rising at 15 percent a year, unemployment is at 4.2 percent, inventories have fallen to a 10-year low, and back orders are rising rapidly.

Sound fiscal policy would call for:

a) An across-the-board tax cut?

b) Sizable increases in transfer payments?

c) A major tax increase?

d) A sizable cut in government spending?

e) Either c or d?

If you're having trouble coming up with the answer, can you imagine how junior and senior high school students would respond? The question is from one of two multiple-choice tests given to 99 Minnesotan ninth- through twelfth-graders as part of Economics Challenge 1991. The Challenge is an educational program sponsored by FEI's Twin Cities Chapter in conjunction with the Center for Economic Education at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

"We wanted to do something beyond giving scholarships," says Dr. James H. Filkins, professor of finance at the University and a director of the Twin Cities Chapter. "Accounting and finance majors already know what they want as a career. By giving them scholarships, we haven't influenced anyone. We want to get into the secondary schools, where we'll make a difference."

The Twin Cities Chapter began partial sponsorship of the event in 1990, the first year of the University's Challenge, when it contributed $800 toward cash prizes and Economics Challenge tee-shirts. ("We made sure the Center added FEI's name to the shirts!" reports Filkins.)

When the 300-member chapter was convinced the program is worthwhile, the group decided to commit the entire sponsorship fee-$3,000-in 1991. And Twin Cities has budgeted another $3,000 for 1992, as part of the $12,000 it reserves annually for education projects.

The objective of the Economics Challenge is twofold: to get students excited about a career in business and to educate their teachers in how business works in the real world. "So many people out there simply do not understand the economics of the system," laments Filkins. But he has hope. According to the professor, teachers from one school participating in the 1991 Challenge went back to their school board and recommended that the school system add a course in economics to the secondary-school curriculum. "That's the kind of thing that makes our involvement worthwhile," he says.

In 1991, Filkins and three other members of the Twin Cities Chapter volunteered their time for the Economics Challenge. They were Heino A. P. Beckmann, MBA director at the University of St. Thomas and chairman of the chapter's Academic Relations Committee; Kenneth F. Gudorf; and David A. McGowan, director of litigation services at Coopers Lybrand and chapter president for 1990-91. Filkins admits that he and McGowan tried taking one of the tests administered to the students, and they agree that the questions are indeed a challenge! (Two levels of tests, one geared to freshmen and sophomores and one to juniors and seniors, are divided into four categories: microeconomics, macroeconomics, global, and potpourri.)

So, after spending a day mixing with tomorrow's financial executives, do the Twin Cities volunteers believe we're in trouble with our education system, as many forecasters predict?

Well, I don't think it needs to be a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Filkins, "but it is scary. We've lost our desire to work for anything. We want everything handed to us on a platter. If we're going to overcome that attitude-if we're going to overcome the Japanese and the Germans-improving our educational system is about the only thing we can do. I tell my students there's no free lunch."

The Twin Cities Chapter is the only two-time winner of FEI's Academic Relations Award. For any FEI chapter investigating improvements in its academic relations program, Filkins suggests the state's Council on Economic Education is a good place to look for ideas.-RC


HOWARD I. ATKINS named executive vice president and CFO of Midlantic Corporation (New Jersey).

WILLIAM L. BENFORD named CFO of L.A. Gear Inc. (Los Angeles).

JERRY H. BLURTON named vice president-finance of Halliburton Company (Dallas).

JOHN J. BUCCHIGNANO named executive vice president and CFO of UST Inc. Connecticut/Westchester).

CRAIG R. L. CALLE, treasurer of Crown Cork and Seal Company, Inc., named to the additional post of vice president (Philadelphia). WILLIAM P. CARMICHAEL named vice president and controller of Sara Lee Corporation Chicago).

TIMOTHY R. CHRISTOFFERSEN named executive vice president and director of Resonex, Inc. (San Francisco).

JOSEPH J. DZURINKO named vice president-finance and CFO of AAR Corporation (Chicago).

ERNEST L. GODSHALK named president of The West Company, inc. (Philadelphia).

ALAN B. GRAF, JR., named senior vice president and CFO of Federal Express Corporation (Memphis).

THOMAS P. GRAHAM named vice president-finance and CFO of Dynamics Research Corporation (Boston).

ROBERT L. GUYETT named senior vice president and CFO of Engelhard Corporation (New Jersey).
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Title Annotation:From FEI; Economics Challenge 1991 program of the Financial Executives Institute
Author:Couch, Robin L.
Publication:Financial Executive
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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