A total of 110 students at the Owensboro Community and Technical College (OCTC) had a “reality check” when the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Office hosted the It’s Your Reality program on campus. Modeled after the Kentucky 4-H Reality Store curriculum, the simulation is designed to introduce students to financial realities through mock budgeting choices and lifestyle decisions. The program was initially designed for the 18 to 22-year-old traditional college student, but was adapted to meet the various financial stages of the broader Owensboro campus demographics.

Upon arrival to the simulation, students were given a one-month’s salary based on the average starting salary for their specific academic program. Participants went from “store” to “store”, paying expenses ranging from transportation, to insurance, to housing, to taxes, to communications, to entertainment, to student loan repayment, and more. The 25 store fronts represented different expenses they would have to make decisions about when choosing their lifestyle.

Dr. Jennifer Hunter, Associate Extension Professor in the UK Department of Family Sciences and creator of the simulation stated, “It’s Your Reality is an opportunity to introduce students to the financial reality associated with adulthood. It shows them the importance of the financial decisions they are making today and how they impact their future. The goal is to make them more mindful of their spending decisions.”

From the evaluations that were collected from the participants, 94% of the respondents found the simulation exercise educational. Notably, 98% of the respondents reported that they had intentions of thinking more about the impact of a purchase decision on their finances and that they were more likely to consider the impact of a purchase decision today on their future.  

Mary Higginbotham, Daviess County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences Education, was excited to report on the partnership and overall experience. She said, “I feel that the program was a tremendous success for the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Office and UK Cooperative Extension Service. Our partnership with the local community college (OCTC) allowed us to reach a diverse audience with educational information related to important skills and knowledge necessary for financial management and security. The knowledge gained will allow the individuals to work towards financial security while in school and as they are transitioning into the workforce. The program was supported by numerous community agencies, organizations, and businesses with the involvement of volunteers who shared their time and expertise. This is definitely a program we plan to continue and hope to see grow in the future in Daviess County.”

Terms: FCS