Rating Method

At the end of this report are brief overviews of how each state approaches personal finance education in their public high schools. The Center’s research includes reviews of high school graduation requirements, academic standards as they relate to personal finance and state laws, regulations and rules that relate to how each state delivers personal finance, education in their public high schools.

The state grades in this report are also based on a review of financial literacy legislation summaries maintained by the National Conference of State Legislatures for the last 14 years (1999 to 2015; however, only 2010 to 2015 are currently accessible on their website); on the Council for Economic Education’s “2014 Survey of the States”, Economic and Personal Finance Education in our Nation’s Schools; and on data compiled by the Jump$tart Coalition on Personal Financial Literacy (their online data on state financial education requirements). For more information, see the “Sources Used For Grading the States and Additional References and Resources” section of this report.

As thorough as the Center’s researchers tried to be, it is possible that some of the grades in this report are based on incomplete or inaccurate information and thus might be too severe or too lenient for a particular state. We want the grades to be based on the best information possible, and so we welcome any corrections or additional data for future updates. We encourage you to send any information that you believe we should be made aware of to cfl@champlain.edu.

Guide to the Grading System

The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College has graded all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their efforts to teach the ABC’s of financial literacy to high school students. The grading system used in this report has been modified slightly from the 2013 report card. The grading was changed to take into account new information compiled by the Center as part of its primary research on each state’s high school education policies. The previous report was based primarily on research conducted by thirdparty, non-profit organizations. As discussed in the report, state assessment testing on personal finance concepts is no longer part of the grading methodology in 2015. The Center did not believe that testing in this area was currently at a level to warrant giving a state extra credit for their efforts (with the exception of Utah, which still received the highest grade possible despite this change). See the section of the report below titled “Why Assessments Are Not Part of the 2015 Grading Methodology.”

Map: Grade Color Key

The state requires personal finance instruction as a graduation requirement that is equal to a one-semester, half-year course (minimum of approximately 60 hours of personal finance instruction in an academic year).

The state mandates personal finance education as part of a required course. In some of these states, local school districts determine whether the personal finance instruction requirement is met through a stand-alone course offering or embedded in another course.

The state has substantive personal finance topics in its academic standards that the local school districts are expected to teach. Implementation is left to local school districts with no material oversight by the state. There is no specific delivery mechanism identified for financial literacy instruction.

The state has modest levels of personal finance education in its academic standards that local school districts are expected to teach. Implementation is left to local school districts with no material oversight by the state. There is no specific delivery mechanism identified for financial literacy instruction.

The state has virtually no requirements for personal finance education in high school. High school students in these states are able to graduate from high school without ever having the opportunity to take a course that includes financial literacy instruction.

It is important to note that states with a grade of C, D or F have local school districts that may require a stand-alone financial literacy course as a graduation requirement. When this occurs, it is a local school district policy and not a statewide policy. This report only grades the educational policies of state governments, not local school districts.

The Center’s grading system is based on the belief that, at a minimum, all high school students should be required to take a designated course that includes personal finance topics—even if these topics are just a modest part of the overall course offering.

We recognize that creating a stand-alone course or other course in which personal finance is embedded can be difficult to achieve. States often tell us that adding a personal finance course requirement is just not possible due to local control issues.

Ironically, many of these states have adopted national educational standards, such as the Common Core for high school English and mathematics, and other national standards for science, social studies and physical education. We believe that if a state can use national models to mandate what must be taught in certain topics like mathematics, language arts, sciences and social studies, they can follow a similar path to requiring instruction in financial literacy.