Financial Education in High Schools: Progress and Disparities

Financial Education in High Schools: Progress and Disparities

A Look at the Growing Emphasis on Financial Literacy in American Education

High schools across the United States are increasingly recognizing the importance of financial education for their students. A recent report from the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College reveals that seven states have earned an “A” grade for requiring high school graduates to complete a personal finance course before graduation. However, while progress is being made, there are still disparities among states, with some lagging behind in implementing comprehensive financial education programs. This article explores the significance of financial education, the factors driving its adoption, and the challenges that remain.

The Lifelong Relevance of Financial Education

“Once you graduate from high school, not a day will go by that you don’t think about money, how to make it, how to spend it, how to save it. You will be thinking about this until the day you die,” emphasizes John Pelletier, director of Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy. The necessity of financial literacy skills in navigating the complexities of personal finance is undeniable. From budgeting and saving to investing and managing debt, these skills form the foundation for a financially secure future.

The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has played a significant role in accelerating the adoption of financial education in high schools. The economic upheaval caused by the pandemic exposed the financial vulnerability of many Americans, highlighting the urgent need for individuals to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions. As a result, more states have recognized the importance of mandating financial literacy courses for all high school students.

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Addressing Disparities through State Requirements

While some schools and districts have taken the initiative to implement financial education programs, experts argue that state-level requirements are crucial in ensuring equitable access to financial literacy education. The report from Champlain College reveals that states with local control are less likely to prioritize financial education, often leaving disadvantaged communities without access to these critical resources. By mandating financial education for all students, regardless of their background, states can bridge the gap and provide equal opportunities for financial empowerment.

The Impact of Financial Education

Research has shown that financial education can have a profound impact on young adults’ financial behaviors. Studies indicate that individuals who receive personal finance education are more likely to have improved credit scores, lower loan delinquency rates, and make better decisions regarding college loans. Moreover, financial literacy equips students with the skills to navigate the complex world of personal finance, enabling them to avoid predatory lending practices and make informed choices about saving and investing.

Progress and Remaining Challenges

While the report from Champlain College highlights the progress made by some states, it also reveals that four states and Washington, D.C., received failing grades for their lack of requirements in personal finance education. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C., have “virtually no requirements” for financial literacy education in high schools. However, advocates in these states are actively working to change legislation and ensure that all students have access to financial education.


The growing emphasis on financial education in high schools is a positive step towards equipping students with the essential skills needed for financial success. As more states recognize the long-term benefits of financial literacy, the number of students receiving this education is projected to increase significantly. However, the disparities that exist among states highlight the need for consistent and comprehensive financial education requirements nationwide. By ensuring that all students have access to financial education, regardless of their socioeconomic background, we can empower the next generation to make informed financial decisions and build a more financially secure future for themselves and their communities.

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