A growing number of students want to learn more about personal finance but most public schools don’t offer such classes as part of the curriculum, U.S. News & World Report recently stated.
According to the student loan provider Sallie Mae, 84 percent of college undergraduates said they wanted more personal finance education. Of those, 64 percent would have liked to have the information in high school and 40 percent wanted the information when they were college freshmen.
Today, only 13 states require high school students to take a personal finance class as part of the graduation requirements, and only 14 states require that such a class be offered at all. In these classes, students learn the basics of managing money, writing checks and creating budgets.
In most states, however, students aren’t getting everything they need. Experts like Nan Morrison, president of the nonprofit Council for Economic Education, said schools are so focused on core subjects that personal finance gets overlooked. In addition, many school districts are so cash-strapped that personal-finance classes are seen as extracurricular and are scrapped.
Where Does Responsibility Fall?
For most of the financially inept high schoolers, the problems start at home. Parents can’t effectively handle money and can pass on their bad habits to their children. Because of this, money-management skills aren’t taught in the home.
“To say it’s a parent’s responsibility seems unfair—unfair to the parents and unfair to the kids. You can’t ask people to be responsible for teaching something if they haven’t received the education themselves,” Morrison said.
Then the problem trickles down to schools and local government. Many teachers said they feel unqualified to teach such a topic. They worry that the implications of teaching misinformation could have far-reaching effects. And local lawmakers say adding more to the curriculum will drive up education costs.
Certain States Implement Changes
Some states have realized that it’s in everyone’s best interest to teach money basics at an early age. Maryland lawmakers recently passed a bill that would require all students in that state to pass a financial literacy class to graduate.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said some state officials opposed the bill because of price concerns. He quickly dispelled that notion by pointing out that Maryland’s Carroll County, which independently chose to implement the program in its eight high schools long before the bill passed, did it with less than $40,000.
“The idea that you have to hire a bunch of new teachers and incur all sorts of new textbook costs and other sorts of expenses just isn’t true,” Franchot said.
Other proponent for financial literacy classes say that teaching high school students proper money management tools will guide them in life.
“I think making sure our young people graduate from high school financially literate is one of the biggest gifts we can give them,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “And if they don’t understand finances, then I think they’re going to really struggle.”