- Several states endorsed financial literacy programs in K-12 schools this year, continuing a curriculum trend to educate students on the importance of personal economics. Hawaii and Virginia are among the states exploring or strengthening economics education and financial literacy at the middle and high school levels, the National Conference of State Legislatures said in a summary of 2021 legislation.
- According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Council for Economic Education, 21 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance — an increase of four states since 2018. Twenty-five states require courses in economics.
- Although research points to the benefits of students’ early understanding about saving and spending, state education programs have a variety of approaches, with some requiring standalone courses for graduation and others making courses optional or allowing for economic education to be integrated into other courses.
In addition to state education agencies taking a lead in expanding financial instruction, local school systems and organizations are also boosting programing and resources.
Research published last spring by Carly Urban, an associate professor of economics at Montana State University, shows there were 754 changes to schools’ financial education policies during the 2020-21 school year. Of those schools, 265 schools changed to a standalone course requirement.
Urban’s research also suggests expansion of financial education policies may be helped by having a program at a nearby school. For example, in North Carolina, having one more school in a 10-mile radius with a standalone course requirement increases the likelihood another school adopts that same policy by 7 percentage points.
Across the country, 3.8 million students are enrolled in a high school with a standalone personal finance elective course, and 1.9 million students attend a school where a standalone course is required.
The Florida Council on Economic Education provides teacher training and classroom resources at no cost to educators. Its Financial Freedom workbook, which is free to all Florida teachers and parents, covers topics such as the use of credit, saving for college, vehicle ownership and the basics of insurance.
The North Carolina Council on Economic Education provided professional development to more than 1,000 teachers across the state during the 2019-20 school year and hosted student academic competitions.
The nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance also provides free curriculum, professional development and resources to schools and has a mission that, by 2030, all high school students will take a one-semester personal finance course before graduation.
The CEE has developed national standards for financial literacy starting in 4th grade to guide school administrators, teachers and others in implementing curriculum about financial decision-making. The standards and benchmarks cover topics including earning an income, buying goods and services, investing and reducing financial risk.
Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, which has in the past published a national report card of state efforts to improve high school financial literacy programs, advises that schools require the courses for graduation and that students take quality assessments on financial knowledge, among other recommendations.