Students take up the matter to ask for more financial education

As financial literacy advocates push for more personal financial education in schools, students get involved too.

According to the Economic Education Council, only 21 states require personal finance courses to graduate from high school, with only a handful requiring a separate class. However, research shows that those with some financial education tend to take on lower credit card balances, higher credit scores, and smaller personal loans for college.

“The economy fluctuates up and down,” said 15-year-old Zoe McCall. “We need to know these things.”

The sophomore high school lives in Maryland, one of the states that do not require coursework for high school graduates. While McCall regularly talks about money to her parents at home, not all of her classmates are this happy, she said.

10th grade student Zoe McCall does her homework on her laptop while studying remotely. She successfully campaigned for personal finance courses to be a prerequisite for her school.

CNBC

McCall and some of her colleagues testified to Prince George’s Education Department in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in March of last year about the importance of financial education. The board passed a resolution providing for a personal finance course for all students in the area.

“I’m going to witness the changes I’ve made and it’s just very, very exciting,” said McCall, a self-described activist and entrepreneur with several sideline businesses including mask making and babysitting.

The state of Maryland may not be further behind the Prince George’s County School District. According to Next Gen Personal Finance, a nonprofit group that creates free courses and funds training for college educators, they introduced bills in their 2021 legislative sessions to improve access to financial literacy.

Student Zoe McCall testifies before her education committee the importance of financial literacy in March 2020.

Zoe McCall

The bills range from creating task forces and commissions to developing standards for what to teach and ensuring that every student takes a course.

“This is a move,” said Tim Ranzetta, CEO and Co-Founder of Next Gen Personal Finance. “That is something [students and teachers] want.”

The financial uncertainty caused by the pandemic helped mobilize the new wave of people who are joining the fight.

“Whenever there is economic stress there is a renewed focus on how to improve financial performance, and financial literacy is a component of that,” he added.

Lawyers don’t just focus on students.

In West Orange, New Jersey, 14-year-old Olivia Raymond took her first personal finance course in middle school last year. She and her classmates learned the basics of money management such as saving, investing, budgeting, and donating.

Student Olivia Raymond is taking a personal finance class in her middle school class in West Orange, New Jersey in February 2020.

CNBC

A year later, she is still using those important money hours.

“These are skills that can be used when I apply for a job, when I apply to colleges,” said Raymond.

Children between the ages of 8 and 9 receive age-appropriate financial lessons. An online learning resource, SmartPath, focuses on kindergarten age children by using music videos and interactive games to educate them about financial issues.

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The free content has become an important resource for parents, said Julie Heath of the University of Cincinnati, who helped develop the SmartPath curriculum.

“Financial literacy learns to think critically about all facets of your life, especially money,” said Heath. “Why shouldn’t we report this as soon as possible?”

In fact, by the age of 7, many children’s attitudes towards consumption are established or begin to take shape.

“We wanted to convey this to the students as quickly as possible so that they can develop a responsible attitude towards money.”

Lee Jimenez, a teacher at Indian Hill Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio, discusses credit cards and payment methods with his 3rd grade using the online financial education curriculum SmartPath.

SMARTPATH

Lee Jimenez, a teacher at Indian Hill Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio, uses the content to teach money to his third grade students. One lesson was on payment methods.

For 9-year-old Roberto Nieves Fernandez, the importance of debt and how to deal with it became clear.

“You have to pay it back if it’s on a credit card,” he said.

9-year-old student Roberto Nieves Fernandez studies personal finance topics on his laptop using the online resource center SmartPath.

SMARTPATH

As teaching becomes increasingly important in schools across the country, much remains to be done, McCall said.

“It’s very important that students take the lead and get involved in that advocacy because that’s what we want for us,” she said.

“That will affect us directly.”

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