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States are making modest improvements in personal finance education standards, but they still have a long way to go, according to the third report card on state efforts to improve financial literacy in American high schools.
John Pelletier, director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, which produced the report card, says American high schools have improved incrementally, in part because previous report cards have energized debates and legislation in many states.
Pelletier notes that research from Next Gen Personal Finance indicates that students from wealthy communities are much more likely to have access to personal finance education in high school than students in poor communities. "The poor should have equal access to personal finance education in high school-it shouldn't be for just the rich," he says. "But access is only possible if a state policy requires it."
The report card gives grades to all 50 states and the District of Columbia. You can see all states and their grades in the 2017 report card.
"Americans need to know how to use credit, save for retirement, invest wisely, and understand the many complicated financial decisions made in the average person's lifetime," says Pelletier. "It's gratifying to see that financial literacy is slowly becoming more of a priority in the states and in our nation's capitol. We know that financial illiteracy was one of the causes of the Great Recession. Clearly, personal finance should be right up there with reading, writing and arithmetic as a critical subject."
Pelletier also notes that studies demonstrate that financial literacy educational interventions in high school appear to have a positive impact on knowledge and measurable financial behaviors.
Illinois, Texas, Virginia, Washington state and West Virginia have enhanced financial literacy education of high school students since the 2015 report card. Arkansas, Delaware, Nevada and Vermont are in the process of making changes that could improve their overall grade once the proposed changes take effect.
Unfortunately, Louisiana abandoned its mandatory personal finance education requirement, and Idaho reduced the number of class hours required for the subject.
Only Utah earned an A+, while Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia earned A grades. These states require students to take a standalone course.
Only six states earning a grade B clearly require 15 hours or more in personal finance instruction prior to high school graduation: Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Texas and West Virginia (the other 13 grade B states require fewer than 15 hours of instruction or hours of instruction cannot be estimated). Only 11 states require high school students to receive 15 or more hours of financial instruction before entering the workforce or going to college.
Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wisconsin received an F grade. Louisiana, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming received a D grade.
The Champlain College Center's report card is based on research and personal interviews with state officials on their assessment policies, graduation requirements and educational standards. Here are the 2013 and 2015 report cards, as well as a 2016 adult report card.
Pelletier notes readers of the report card in a particular state could be miffed by a C, D or F grade when their particular school offers a personal finance course. He says there are many wonderful pockets of financial literacy excellence in every state, usually due to the efforts of principals, teachers, parents and others in the community, not the result of a state-wide required educational policy.
Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy, a partnership among several financial institutions, non-profit entities and governmental agencies, promotes and develops financial literacy skills in K-12 students, college students, teachers (K-12 and college) and adults. The Center is an advocate for financial education opportunities at the local, state and national level. The Center has launched a variety of programs aimed at increasing the personal finance sophistication of Americans.
Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, John Pelletier, Director, office: 802-860-2744, Cell: 617-548-6102, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Mease, Director of Public Information and News, Champlain College; Cell: 802-578-8029, Office: 802-865-6432, email@example.com
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit champlain.edu.