The high schools of Mass. must embrace personal finance education

Our non-profit organization works with personal finance teachers across the country, and we’re seeing momentum like we’ve never seen before. Twenty-six states introduced financial education bills this year. Ten states now guarantee at least one semester course in personal finance for all students before graduation.

Massachusetts may well be the 11th state. Financial literacy is finally a hot topic in school districts across the state. While a leader in many education priorities, the state lags in access to financial education in high schools. A study we commissioned this year from Montana State University shows that only 4.9% of high school students in Massachusetts are guaranteed to take a personal finance course before they graduate.

If you’re lucky enough to attend Newton North High School or North Attleboro High School or Wilmington High School or 12 other high schools in Massachusetts, you’re guaranteed to take a personal finance course before you graduate. The postal code shouldn’t be a must when it comes to whether or not high school students get this essential course.

State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg released a report this month saying, “Requiring all schools in Massachusetts to offer financial education classes is a critical step in building a more equitable future for our children. Now more than ever, access to these tools must be free and easily accessible to all K-12 students.

That gap may soon close with a series of bills making their way to the Massachusetts legislature this fall, led by Sen. Patrick O’Connor, Representative Sal N. DiDomenico and Treasurer Goldberg. I testified in favor of the bills in September, but the words of the teachers we worked with are the strongest call to action.

Jacqueline Collins has been teaching personal finance at Mansfield High School for 16 years, and she sees a surge in demand. “Enrollment in my class has exploded. We have 14 sections this year, and we’ve even added another personal finance course to the catalog. The students want this course, and we should provide it to them.

Sara Fass, professor of personal finance at the Boston Day and Evening Academy, notes how the practical nature of her course translated into student activism to make it a requirement for graduation. She says her students not only want the course, but they want all of their peers to take it as well, and students consistently rank it as the most meaningful and important course in the school.

In states that have made financial education a priority, there are measurable gains in financial literacy and downstream behaviors like responsible use of credit cards and avoiding predatory lenders.

Cedric Turner, professor of personal finance and economics at Brockton High School, sees the importance of combining financial education with economic thinking. “We teach them together for a full year course. These topics need to be highlighted more than ever, as global economic influences are reflected in our decisions about education, spending, borrowing, career planning, saving, investing and more.

By adding this requirement in all high schools, the state will benefit in another way. Financial education can help close the racial wealth gap in Massachusetts, according to a report from the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. The report indicates that such an education would result in gains of $ 25 billion to the state’s economy over five years.

Tim Ranzetta is co-founder of the NGPF Mission 2030 Fund and Next Gen Personal Finance, whose goal is to ensure that all high school graduates receive personal finance training by 2030.