States are waking up to the need for personal finance education by making modest improvements in education standards, but they still have a long way to go, according to a recent 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 in Burlington, Vt., which produced the "2017 National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools," says American high schools have improved incrementally, in part because previous report cards, issued in 2015 and 2013, have informed debates and energized legislation in many states, and have been used by state task forces and commissions that have advocated for increased personal finance education. The report card gives grades to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Pelletier points to studies that show financial literacy is linked to positive outcomes like wealth accumulation, stock market participation, retirement planning, and avoiding high-cost alternative financial services like payday lending and auto title loans.
In addition to compiling data from various sources, Champlain’s center conducted in-depth research on each state’s policies regarding the teaching of high school personal finance. The center reviewed state laws and regulations, graduation requirements, educational standards and assessment policies, and clarified questions in discussions with state education policy experts.
In anticipation of April 2018 as national Financial Literacy Month, the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College is making its first Top Ten States for High School Financial Literacy Awards, based on the 2017 report card findings. The winners are....
#10 - Maryland
Maryland received a "B" because it requires students in elementary, middle and high school to take courses that include personal finance. Hours of instruction cannot be determined since each school district decides how it will meet the requirement. It is unclear how or whether the state measures student proficiency.
#9 - Georgia
Georgia received a B+ because it requires students to take a half-year economics course that has personal finance concepts embedded in it. The CFL estimates that Georgia students receive about 17 hours of instruction in personal finance. An assessment of economics knowledge includes some personal finance questions, but not enough for the state to accurately measure student proficiency.
#8 - West Virginia
West Virginia received a B+ because it requires students to take a full-year civics course that has personal finance concepts embedded in it, and the center estimates that West Virginia students receive about 27 hours of instruction in personal finance. Students who take an AP government course are not required to take the civics course, and it is unclear how or whether the state measures student proficiency.
#7 - Illinois
Illinois received a B+ because it requires students to take a nine-week consumer education course that has personal finance concepts embedded in it, and the center estimates that Illinois students receive between 30 and 37 hours of instruction in personal finance. It is unclear how or whether the state measures student proficiency.
#6 - FLORIDA
Florida received a B+ because it requires students to take a half-year economics course that has personal finance concepts embedded in it, and the center estimates that Florida students receive about 37 hours of instruction in personal finance. It is unclear how or whether the state measures student proficiency, but Florida may pass legislation in 2018 that requires a personal finance course as a graduation requirement, which would improve its grade to an A.
The TOP FIVE 'A' States
Virginia received an A because it requires that personal finance be taught as part of a full-year course and that coverage of the topic be equivalent to a half-year course. Its Department of Education also provides online financial literacy resources available to teachers.
Tennessee received an A because it requires a half-year course in personal finance, and that the educational standards for the course are robust.
Missouri received an A because it allows local school districts to determine whether personal finance is taught in standalone courses or embedded as half of the instruction in a full-year course, plus the state provides school districts with an assessment tool to test students, who must pass to graduate.
Alabama received an A because, beginning with this year’s graduating class, students must take a year-long career preparedness course that includes the equivalent of a semester course in personal finance.
The Top State for High School Financial Literacy is....
#1 - Utah
Utah is the only state to receive an A+
The state of Utah should be commended for its efforts. Utah requires that all high school students take a half-year course exclusively dedicated to personal finance topics, and students are required to take an end-of-course assessment examination created and administered by the state. The state requires that educators teaching this course obtain a specific endorsement in general financial literacy that includes coursework on financial planning; credit and investing; and consumer, personal and family economics. The state also provides its educators with tools, resources and many professional development opportunities. General financial literacy is a funded mandate in Utah.
John Pelletier, director of the Champlain College center, says “For all their efforts, educators in Utah should be commended and looked to as a model for personal finance education.”
Detailed descriptions of the Top 10 States and the methods used in the report are available online and in a downloadable PDF format.
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.
About Champlain College: Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small private college overlooking Lake Champlain and Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal and Dublin. Its career-driven approach to higher education prepares students for professional life from their very first semester. Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as an innovative school, it is listed among The Princeton Review's "The Best 382 Colleges" in 2018 and is featured in the 2018 Fiske Guide to Colleges as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain.
163 S. Willard St., Burlington, Vermont 05401 | www.champlain.edu