Most adults in the U.S. support guaranteed access to personal finance education for high school students.
Eighty-eight percent of adults surveyed by the National Endowment for Financial Education said their state should require either a semester or year long personal finance course for graduation. The survey of 1,030 adults was conducted in March.
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"Americans overwhelmingly recognize the importance of learning money skills at an early age, and this poll reinforces there is demonstrated national support for personal finance to be a part of learning in all schools," said Billy Hensley, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education, in a Tuesday statement.
In addition, 80% of those surveyed said that they wish they had been required to take a personal finance course to graduate high school.
The survey also found older adults, higher earners and those with a postsecondary degree were far more likely than others to support mandated personal financial education or say they wished they'd had such a class in school. Non-Hispanic white respondents were also more likely to support personal finance courses than their Black and Hispanic counterparts.
"Financial education unequivocally is the foundation for acquiring and applying knowledge, though we are transparent that education alone is not enough to overcome systemic barriers," said Hensley. "There are many foundational factors that are part of the personal finance ecosystem that work together toward achieving financial capability."
A growing trend
The number of states that mandate a personal finance course for high schoolers has grown in recent years. In March, Florida became the largest state to require personal finance in high school, and Georgia's governor is set to sign a similar bill into law this week.
Currently, 25% of high school students in the U.S. have guaranteed access to a personal finance course, according to a recent report from nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance.
In addition, more states have active bills that would mandate personal finance education if passed, and some are poised to become law this year.
Such mandates at the state level are important to ensure that all students have the same access to personal finance courses. Without a law guaranteeing such classes, students of color and those in lower-income school districts are much less likely to get a solid personal finance education, the nonprofit found.
"Legislative action, state support and access to trusted resources make a massive difference in leveling equitable access for all students," Hensley wrote in a recent blog post. "A thorough and effective state requirement ensures that all schools can offer this vital class to their students regardless of ZIP code."
Beyond advocating for legislation that ensures all high schoolers get personal finance classes, Hensley and Next Gen Personal Finance point out that teacher training is also an important piece of the puzzle.
Without effective professional development, it can be difficult for teachers to feel prepared to teach personal finance. That has an impact on the outcome of the classes they teach, according to Hensley.
"Quality of instruction is equally as important as access," Hensley wrote.
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