In the latest round of legislative proposals, some states are only promoting financial skills, while some would make the subject a requirement for a degree. For example, Ohio is considering a proposal that students must pass half a credit grade in personal finance to graduate. The class must be taught by a teacher trained in the subject.
The bill would also create a fund that can help fund training to teach the subject, said Senator Steve Wilson, a Republican and former bank director who co-sponsored the bill. He said he was confident the bill would be elected from the committee this month.
“Children come out of school with no knowledge of finance,” said Senator Wilson. “You go into the world severely disadvantaged.”
Many proponents of financial literacy consider a full semester course to be the gold standard for personal finance instruction. Rebecca Maxcy, director of the Financial Education Initiative at the University of Chicago, said many courses focused primarily on skills like writing a check or filing taxes. While these lessons can be helpful, it is important that the courses include discussion of how personal values and attitudes towards money influence behavior, as well as an examination of financial systems and potential barriers students will encounter in the world of money.
Questions like “Who will benefit from opening a bank account?” can lead to meaningful discussions, she said.
However, some curriculum options provide a more condensed basic education.
Everfi, a digital education company, offers a free seven-session program for high school financial literacy. Students take interactive, self-guided lessons on topics such as banking, budgeting, and college funding.
Sidney Strause, a freshman at Marshall University in West Virginia, said she took Everfi’s course as a junior in high school. Classes were assigned as part of another course she was taking and typically lasted 45 minutes to an hour.