NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Financial Literacy in Schools

August 16, 2011

Starting this fall, Virginia high schools join a handful of states, including Missouri, Utah and Tennessee, that mandate a class in financial education.  Similar legislation aimed at improving students' financial literacy has been introduced in Maryland, while several states require teachers to weave personal finance lessons into existing coursework.  Combined with grassroots efforts by non-profits and financial institutions, it's all part of a nationwide push to keep Generation Y from making money mistakes that could haunt them long after they graduate from college, says USA Today.

The effort extends beyond grades K-through-12.

  • Starting last year, an eight-part course in personal finance became part of the four-year curriculum for Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.
  • Students who don't complete a seminar on time lose their ability to schedule classes for the next semester, says John Pelletier, head of Champlain College's Center for Financial Literacy.

Students aren't the only ones with a steep learning curve.

  • More than half of teachers say they feel unqualified to use their state's financial education standards, and few feel "very competent" lecturing a class on topics such as risk management and debt, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • If states are serious about students' financial education, Pelletier says, they need to be equally serious about ensuring that teachers are qualified to take on these concepts.

Source: Casey McDermott, "States Start to Require Courses in Financial Literacy," USA Today, August 15, 2011.

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