Most States Don’t Require Specific Financial Literacy Classes


The New York Times, Jan 19, 2018

Most states take a scattershot approach to teaching personal finance concepts to high school students, a newly released financial literacy report card finds, with just a handful of exceptions.

The 2017 Financial Report Card from Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy gave just five states — Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — an A grade for their efforts. The five require high school students to take at least a half-year personal finance course, or the equivalent, as a graduation requirement. The courses cover topics like using credit safely, saving for retirement, investing and navigating the financial decisions that typically occur in a person’s lifetime.

While there has been debate over whether mandating personal finance education is an effective way to make young people more savvy about money, the report cites studies suggesting that instruction is helpful if teachers receive “robust” training and use a well-designed curriculum. John Pelletier, the report’s author and director of the center, in Burlington, Vt., argues that personal finance is a “critical subject” for high school students preparing to enter college or the work force.

The report card gave Bs to 19 states that require students to receive personal finance instruction to graduate from high school, but may devote less time to it than A states. For instance, some B states — including New Jersey — let districts decide whether to cover the topic in a stand-alone course or include it within another course, which may dilute the intensity of the instruction. The 12 states that earned Cs and the four with Ds included some personal finance topics in state standards, but left the decision on how much to teach up to local districts. The report flunked the remaining 10 states and Washington, D.C., saying they have “few requirements or none at all” for personal financial education in high school.

“What the grading shows is that we have a long way to go before we are a financially literate nation,” the report found. Mr. Pelletier cautioned that even within states with poor grades, individual schools or districts may offer strong personal finance instruction.

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