New policy to require students to take personal finance classes
NASHVILLE (AP) — A new educational policy expected to be approved this month by the state Board of Education would require high school students to take a personal finance class.
The policy to be voted on Jan. 25 is meant to strengthen graduation requirements and better prepare young people for college and the work force.
David Sevier, the education board’s policy adviser, said the measure is expected to pass and that local districts will determine which year of high school to offer the course.
The requirement stems from last year’s roundtable meetings Gov. Phil Bredesen held with business leaders, who said Tennessee graduates lack basic academic and life skills.
At least seven other states offer similar courses, which covers investing, credit cards and recordkeeping, according to a survey by National Council on Economic Education.
La Vergne High School senior Lindsay Duncan said a similar elective class she took last semester helped her save money from her job at the local YMCA, instead of spending it on clothes and fast food.
After she learned how to set up a savings account and distinguish between needs and wants, Duncan said she saved $1,000 toward her own car and now puts away $50 every time she gets paid.
“I kind of feel like I was living in a bubble,” she said. “I didn’t think anything about saving and putting money away for retirement. A personal finance class should be a requirement before we go off to the real world and learn it the hard way.”
Nashville financial planner Bill Garrett said such a policy is long overdue. Garrett helps clients in their 30s and 40s manage their money and sometimes recover from spending mistakes they’ve made.
“Kids in high school today don’t understand why its better to save early on instead of catching up later,” Garrett said. “Nobody told them.”
Many Tennessee high schools already offer a personal finance course as an elective. But a 2006 survey by JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy shows that only 29.8 percent of Tennessee students who took a personal finance test passed it.
Nationally, 38 percent of students who took the test passed it.
Teacher Donna England said she supports the board’s idea to make her subject a requirement.
“They’re going out there, getting in debt and owing all this money,” she said. “You hear more and more about foreclosures, and that’s where the students are headed because they don’t realize what they’re in for.”
Published in The Messenger 1.14.08