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Consider your senior year in high school. How would you evaluate your financial acumen? Did you learn the fundamentals of budgeting and saving? What about insurance and taxes? It’s enough to make an adult’s head spin, let alone the head of a high school student. But imagine (and perhaps you don’t have to) entering the adult world with no training, no advice on all this money stuff, and attempting to negotiate things like paying rent on time, affording food, and paying for education. It’s enough to make you feel overwhelmed and terrified.

As a result, it’s no surprise that states are now raising financial literacy standards for high school pupils. Perhaps you’ve heard about these changes in the news and are wondering if your child will be required to take a financial literacy class, or perhaps you’re a teacher who may be required to fulfill that new requirement. You’ve arrived here because you’re curious about which states require financial literacy for high school students. So, let’s get started and find out!

Currently, 30 states (and counting) require high schools to teach personal finance. However, this does not imply that all 30 require students to complete a personal finance course in order to graduate.

Personal finance is only a graduation requirement in 17 states. However, some states do not require a course at all, or they just incorporate personal finance into another subject, or they split out and do their own thing.

Here’s a quick rundown of each state and their criteria.

States that require students to take a financial literacy course for high school graduationAlabama, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia
States that require a financial literacy course to be offeredLouisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia
States that require a financial literacy course to be offered, but the coursework can also be integrated into other subjectsArizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Texas
States that require financial literacy standards to be implemented by districtsColorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin
States that include financial literacy in their K–12 standardsConnecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington
States that currently have no financial literacy requirementsAlaska, California, Wyoming, Washington D.C.

A standalone personal finance course was classified as one that lasted at least one semester, or 60 continuous instructional hours. The percentage of students in each state who have a mandatory (not elective) personal finance course is shown below.

State/Territory% of Students Required to Take Personal Finance Course
North Carolina89.2%
New Jersey43.0%

Personal finance courses are currently required in eight states: Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia. These states naturally have the highest level of personal finance education.

Five states have started the process of requiring personal financial education for high school students, with Florida being the most populated. Previously, the state obliged schools to provide a personal finance course as an elective, but just 5% of students enrolled.

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Only 9.3% of students are required to complete a personal finance course outside of the guarantee states. This figure falls to 5% in schools with a large percentage of Black or Brown pupils, while students qualifying for a free or reduced lunch program (i.e. lower income students) also fall into this category.

The majority of Americans believe that it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children about personal finance. However, nearly one-third of parents say they never discuss money with their children. Personal financial education in schools is one approach to filling that void.

People who have obtained financial education are more likely to be financially literate. As a result, people are less likely to experience financial challenges.

When compared to persons with high financial literacy, those with low financial literacy were five times more likely to be unable to meet one month’s living expenditures. According to separate studies, introducing a legislative mandate for personal financial education increased credit ratings and lowered delinquency rates.

Not only that, but financial education can help you develop money. According to one survey, only one-third of billionaires earned a six-figure income during the course of their careers. Rather than relying on high wages, most billionaires achieved success by following fundamental personal financial rules such as investing early and consistently, avoiding credit card debt, and spending sensibly utilizing tools such as budgets and coupons.

When the in-progress state requirements are fully implemented, more than a third of high school students in the United States will have guaranteed access to a personal finance course. Momentum is also spreading outside guarantee states. According to the NGPF’s financial education bill tracker, there are 48 personal finance laws pending in 18 states.

Importantly, 88% of respondents polled support mandatory personal finance education—and the majority wish they had been compelled to take a personal finance course themselves.

Personal experience may be an excellent (but costly) lesson, particularly when it comes to money. When students take a financial literacy course in high school, they learn principles that will help them succeed in the real world and create excellent money habits early on.

Students who take a personal finance class in high school are more likely to apply the money principles they learn in their daily life. In the Students and Money National Research Study, 76,000 high school students who had completed a personal finance course were asked how the course had altered the way they handled their money. Here’s what they discovered:

  • Nearly 8 in 10 create a monthly budget for their money.
  • 20% paid for their car by themselves.
  • Nearly 80% have their own bank accounts.

And those bank accounts aren’t just waiting for the next round of birthday money. Two-thirds of high school students indicated they work and earn an average of $243 per month, or $3,000 per year. That is the power of personal finance education in action!

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