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A Case for Financial Education in our Schools

financial-ed

The United States lags way behind other developed countries when it comes to financial education. In a 2014 Standard & Poor survey, the USA ranked 14th (behind Canada, Australia and much of Europe) in financial literacy.

Why are we falling short? Simply put, most states don’t mandate financial courses.

According to the Council for Economic Education’s 2016 Survey of States report, just 20 states require high school students to take an economics course, and only 17 states require a personal finance course. There’s also been a decrease in the number of states that conduct standardized testing of economic concepts. Currently, 16 states require testing; that’s down significantly from 25 in 1998.

Students clearly benefit from more advanced financial courses in high school. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation, a proponent of financial literacy, found that high school students who take personal finance courses go on to have higher credit scores and lower debt as young adults.

Take the state of Georgia as an example. Financial education mandates there are considered “rigorous.” Teachers are even trained before teaching the coursework. Credit scores for individuals who had gone through the program averaged 11 points higher than those who graduated prior to the mandate. The study also found that participants had lower credit delinquency rates.

Limited time and stretched resources are the biggest barriers to incorporating this coursework into the public school curriculum. So schools are partnering with nonprofits and financial institutions for help. Several Delaware schools are working with NAF to launch a financial ed program geared toward under-served students. And BB&T just announced the expansion of its Financial Foundations Program to 15 states. That’s progress, but is it enough?

We want to hear from you. Does your high school offer personal finance classes? Are they optional or mandatory?

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