“If it’s mandated, everyone gets access,” said Rebecca Maxcy, director of the Financial Education Initiative at the University of Chicago.
While progress among states is encouraging, there is still more work to be done, said Nan J. Morrison, president and executive director of the Council for Economic Education. Currently, only nine of the 23 states require personal finance to be taken as a standalone course. Others allow the subject to be combined with other subjects, such as math or social studies, or provide students with other options to opt out of the course, which can dilute its impact.
Along with the new report, the council announced the creation of a coalition of companies and nonprofit groups called FinEd50 along with Visa to promote “guaranteed access” to personal finance courses across the states.
Here are some questions and answers about financial literacy:
Don’t students learn about personal finance as part of their economics degree?
Sometimes. However, the growth of government requirements for business education has stalled. Two years ago, 25 states required a high school course in economics, and that number hasn’t changed, according to the Council for Economic Education report. And two states recently considered removing the requirements for studying economics.
“We’re actually concerned about that,” Ms. Morrison said.
She said the council will take a closer look at why efforts to expand economics education have stalled. Students need an understanding of both economics and personal finance, she said, “to thrive in life,” both as individuals and as members of an increasingly complex society.
Is Financial Literacy Education Effective in High School?
There has been debate about what works, with some studies suggesting that financial literacy has limited effects on behavior, or that students may be better off simply learning more math. However, recent research suggests that personal finance classes in high school can help young people make better financial decisions.
A study published in 2020, led by a Montana State University researcher, found that financial literacy requirements were associated with fewer delinquencies and higher credit scores among young adults. And a 2019 University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that mandates “significantly reduced” the likelihood of taking out high-interest payday loans. As with any subject, Professor Lusardi said, effective teaching requires a quality curriculum and well-trained teachers.