Seven years after students from a small, suburban Rhode Island high school successfully advocated for the adoption of financial literacy standards, state lawmakers have made proficiency in personal finance a requirement for high school graduation, beginning with the class of 2024.
Signed by Gov. Dan McKee on June 1, the law creates a Dec. 31 deadline to develop and approve state-specific consumer education and personal finance standards. By the start of the 2022-23 school year, all public high schools in Rhode Island must offer a standards-aligned course.
“It’s very aggressive to get these standards up and running in the time frame that we have set out, but we know that it’s really necessary,” state Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said. On average, Rhode Island graduates have the second-highest student loan debt of any state, at $36,193.
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Having met with students statewide who felt they weren’t prepared to go onto college, and given the pandemic’s impact on student engagement, the commissioner told The 74 this moment was the time to solidify what they had built momentum behind for years.
“[Students] felt like this was something that they were being shortchanged [on]. So we made it a point to push this agenda.”
Rhode Island approved the national Council on Economic Education standards in 2014. On average only about 5 percent of Rhode Island students receive financial literacy education, according to the state education department, given that schools could choose whether or not to adopt the curricula.
Last year, senior Saloni Jain took a personal finance course in a hybrid learning setup, with three days of learning online, at the suburban East Greenwich High School. She said course simulations, like completing mock returns on TurboTax and creating a budgeting spreadsheet, kept her engaged during virtual learning.
“We were getting paychecks — how do we put that money towards a 401(k) and pay all our bills and pay down our credit card or student loan debt? That was really helpful to visualize, you know, how we might live in the future,” Jain said. “It was just a one-semester course, but it honestly changed the way I think a lot.”
Related: McAlmont: Financial Literacy Can’t Wait for College. Here Are My 2 Career Readiness Wishes for Students to Give Them a Leg Up on Success
Nationally, 21 other states have some version of financial literacy standards, …….