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Citigroup to fund global education programs

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Neeah Nichols, 8, left, uses computer in Jackie Robinson YMCA in New York as Charles Prince, Citigroup CEO and second from left, watches.

Neeah Nichols, 8, left, uses computer in Jackie Robinson YMCA in New York as Charles Prince, Citigroup CEO and second from left, watches.

Diane Bondareff, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Citigroup, the nation's largest financial institution, is pledging $200 million to fund consumer education programs around the globe over the next decade.

"We've long been committed to financial education in various places and various ways," Citigroup chief executive Charles O. Prince told The Associated Press. "What we've decided to do is make a comprehensive, long-term commitment to this. We're pretty excited about it."

The new financial education program — one of the largest ever to be announced — was launched Wednesday at ceremonies in New York and several other states as well as in Brazil, Panama, Russia and South Africa.

Ajay Banga, a Citigroup executive vice president who heads the North American retail banking division, said the program includes a consumer education curriculum that the bank will make available free to schools as well as community groups.

The curriculum, for students in kindergarten through high school, emphasizes good spending and savings techniques as well as credit management and charitable giving.

"It's aimed at making the world simple and transparent to day-to-day consumers," Banga said.

The bank already has begun making grants to community groups to help them put the curriculum into use, Banga said.

In addition, Citigroup is setting up an internal Web site to allow its 275,000 employees worldwide to volunteer to work on financial education projects, he said.

"Our hope is that if we do this for 10 years, we can really change peoples' lives," Banga said.

The effort will be headed up by Dara Duguay, who joined the bank Monday as director of its new Office of Financial Education. Duguay had spent the past seven years as executive director of the JumpStart Coalition, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., that lobbies for better financial education in the nation's schools.

"It's not just the money, it's the commitment through volunteerism and the grassroots network that Citi has which will cause a ripple effect with this initiative," Duguay said.

One of the program's first projects is a Financial Education Challenge at a youth Web site run by Do Something. Participants can study the Citi curriculum at www.dosomething.org, then sign on to play an online game managing an imaginary $1,000 over a 10-day period.