With the recent passage of a Louisiana law requiring a financial literacy course for high school graduation, 22 states now have similar requirements on the books as of June, according to finance education advocacy nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance.
Momentum has grown over the last several years to establish financial literacy curriculum requirements, with five new states approving such laws this year alone.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the financial literacy bill into law on June 9, and it is expected to take effect Aug. 1. The required course will cover balancing a checkbook and basic principles of money management like general spending practices and managing debt. The class must also include understanding federal and state finance laws, contesting an incorrect billing statement, receiving an inheritance and more.
As of March, Next Gen Personal Finance reported, 40.5% of students lived in states that require high schools to offer a personal finance class to graduate. But outside of those 17 states, only 1 in 10 high school students were taking a financial literacy course before graduation.
Additionally, gaps remain in access to these courses in the 33 states that have not adopted a semester-long personal finance requirement for high schoolers, the organization said.
High school students living in rural areas are three times more likely to take a financial literacy course than those at urban schools, according to Next Gen Personal Finance. And high schools where more than 75% of students are Black or Hispanic are half as likely to require these courses compared to schools where fewer than 25% of students are Black or Hispanic, the organization found.
Based on a school’s poverty level, Next Gen Personal Finance reports, only 5% of high schools where over 75% of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals require a personal finance class for at least one semester.
While access continues to grow for high school financial literacy courses, the Next Gen Personal Finance data reflects previous findings on persistent disparities. For instance, a 2022 report by the organization found only 1 in 20 students have access to financial education courses in schools where more than 75% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals or where more than three-quarters of the population are students of color.