Thirty five states now require students to take a personal finance course in order to graduate from high school. That’s 12 states more than two years ago, according to report out this week from the Council for Economic Education. The number of states with such a requirement has been creeping up since the late 1990s, with a bump during the Great Recession.

That means 72% of students in the US. are now mandated to take these classes.

One reason for the recent increase? There’s research showing personal finances courses work.

“What we see is that 4, 5, 6 years out, young people tend to have higher credit scores, if they took a required course. They tend to have lower credit card debt,” said Christopher Caltabiano, chief program officer with the Council for Economic Education. “If they’re making a decision to attend college, and if they choose to take out loans, those loans tend to be on more favorable conditions.”

One big challenge now? Finding enough qualified educators.

“Teachers tend to be asked to teach or ‘voluntold’ to teach personal finance, sometimes without any background,” Caltabiano said. “Certainly, they know how to be a good teacher . . . But sometimes the content knowledge is what they’re lacking.”

One teacher who did get certified to teach econ and personal finance was Raven Turner, who works at South County High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. Right now, her students have a project where they have to act as real estate agents and find possible homes for a family to rent. It’s meant to teach them about the cost of housing.

“It’s really opening their eyes. A lot of them are seniors and want to get out on their own,” said Turner.

She said these kinds of lessons would have been useful to her when she was a teenager.

“Here I am now at 30, with a newborn, and I have $100,000 in debt, because I went to a private college,” she said. “There’s so many things I would have done differently had I had this back then.”

Turner said she can see her students grasp concepts like compound interest and budgeting. Her goal is for them to make better financial choices than she did at 18.

“I want them to be millionaires,” said Turner. “I just want them to have so much success in the way that they’re handling their money, that they never have to worry about anything financially, and they don’t have to have the stress that I’ve had throughout my 20s.”

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *