Nearly 25% of U.S. college students have access to personal finance training

Math teacher Marina White teaches seniors at Canyon High School in Canyon Country, Calif., a lesson about investing and the power of compound interest.

Helene Zhao | CNBC

Millions of high school students across the United States will graduate in 2022 with an important course under their belt: personal finance.

Recent momentum among states requiring personal finance training in high school means nearly one in four students will take such a course before graduating this year, according to the 2022 State of Financial Education report. from Next Gen Personal Finance, published Thursday.

That’s a huge change from 2018, when the first report was released and only 16.4% of high school students nationwide were guaranteed a personal finance course. It also means Next Gen Personal Finance, a non-profit organization, is on track to reach 100% of students with guaranteed access to personal finance education by 2030, a goal of the organization.

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“We’ve really seen great progress in guaranteed access,” said Christian Sherrill, Director of Growth and Advocacy at Next Gen Personal Finance.

Current invoices

In addition to the eight states that currently guarantee that all students will take a personal finance course before graduating from high school—which Next Gen Personal Finance considers the gold standard—four additional states have passed similar legislation in the past few years. last 12 months.

These states – Florida, Nebraska, Ohio and Rhode Island – are in the process of implementing their mandates, which means that in the coming years, more than 32% of American students will have a course in personal finance.

“Within five or six years, the proportion of students nationwide with guaranteed access to a personal finance course has doubled,” Sherrill said. “We are excited to see this growth spurt.”

Other states also have pending bills that could pass later this year, further expanding personal finance education efforts across the country. A measure in Georgia will likely be next to become law — both houses of the Georgia General Assembly approved the legislation and sent it to Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, for signature.

“When you start seeing Ohio and Florida as states that have already crossed the finish line, it shows other great states that it’s possible,” said Tim Ranzetta, co-founder of Next Gen Personal Finance.

Warrantless State Access

Certainly, there are high schools in states without mandatory personal finance training that offer such courses.

But local offerings are often patchy, according to the report. Overall, 1 in 10 students in a state that does not mandate personal finance courses have access to such a course. In schools where 75% of students are black or brown or receive free and reduced lunch, that share drops to 1 in 20.

“A lot of schools that don’t feel like they have the resources to implement this course end up not doing it,” said Yanely Espinal, outreach director at Next Gen Personal Finance.

She added that many schools that primarily serve minority students or are in a low-income community are among the first to experience staffing issues and therefore may simply not have enough teachers to offer. another lesson.

“If that’s not already a requirement, it means it’s so much less likely that they have the resources, in terms of human capital, that they can then serve every student,” Espinal said.

This is one of the reasons why an affiliate of Next Gen Personal Finance, called the NGPF Mission 2030 Fund, is advocating for the passage of legislation guaranteeing personal finance education in every state.

Go forward

The group is also working to shine a light on the importance of their standard – that students receive at least a one-semester stand-alone course in personal finance before graduating from high school.

Currently, nearly half of all high school students in the United States have access to such an elective, but it is not a graduation requirement. Another 25% receive personal finance lessons integrated into another course.

To cover everything a high school student needs to know before graduating, a full semester course is required, according to Next Gen Personal Finance.