Most adults in the United States support guaranteed access to personal finance education for high school students.
Eighty-eight percent of adults surveyed by the National Endowment for Financial Education said their state should require a one-semester or one-year personal finance course to graduate. The survey of 1,030 adults was conducted in March.
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“Americans overwhelmingly recognize the importance of acquiring financial skills at an early age, and this poll confirms that there is demonstrated national support for personal finance to be part of learning in all schools,” said Billy Hensley, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education, in a statement released Tuesday.
Additionally, 80% of respondents said they wish they had been required to take a personal finance course to graduate from high school.
The survey also found that older adults, high-income earners and those with a post-secondary degree were significantly more likely than others to support mandatory personal financial education or to say they wished they had a such course at school. Non-Hispanic white respondents were also more likely to support personal finance courses than their black and Hispanic counterparts.
“Financial education is unequivocally the foundation for knowledge acquisition and application, although we are clear that education alone is not enough to overcome systemic barriers,” Hensley said. “There are many fundamental factors that are part of the personal finance ecosystem that work together to achieve financial capability.”
A growing trend
The number of states requiring a personal finance course for high school students has increased in recent years. In March, Florida became the largest state to require high school personal finance, and Georgia’s governor is expected to sign a similar bill this week.
Currently, 25% of high school students in the United States have guaranteed access to a personal finance course, according to a recent report by the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance.
Additionally, more and more states have active bills that would make personal finance education mandatory if passed, and some are set to become law this year.
Such state-level mandates are important to ensure that all students have equal access to personal finance courses. Without a law guaranteeing such classes, students of color and those in low-income school districts are much less likely to receive a solid personal finance education, the nonprofit found.
“Legislative action, state support, and access to trusted resources make a huge difference in leveling equitable access for all students,” Hensley wrote in a recent blog post. “A thorough and effective state requirement ensures that all schools can offer this vital class to their students, regardless of ZIP code.”
Beyond advocating for legislation to ensure all high school students benefit from personal finance classes, Hensley and Next Gen Personal Finance point out that teacher training is also an important piece of the puzzle.
Without effective professional development, it can be difficult for teachers to feel prepared to teach personal finance. This impacts the outcome of the classes they teach, according to Hensley.
“The quality of education is just as important as access,” Hensley wrote.
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