The state of financial literacy in US schools

They say that for every dark cloud there is a silver lining.  This could definitely be used to describe the current state of financial literacy in the U.S.  Headlines concerning financial literacy over the past several years have been pretty grim – failing grades, declining savings and mounting debt.  The good news is that states and school districts are starting to respond.

In 2011, the Council for Economic Education’s Survey of the States reported that only 13 states required personal finance to graduate and only 14 states required at least one personal finance class to be taught.  And while 46 states included personal finance in their K-12 standards, only five required student testing.

In 2014, there has been some improvement.  The CEE’s Survey of the States shows the number of states that require personal finance to graduate has jumped to 17, and 19 states now require that a personal finance course be taught.  The number of states requiring student testing has also increased to six.  And the news continues to improve – the Kansas House of Representatives passed legislation in March to require personal finance in schools and an Oklahoma requirement passed in 2007 will be implemented beginning in May.  March also saw the first meeting of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.

Students know the benefits of being money-savvy, especially as they prepare to set out on their own after graduation. Speaking about a business class he took his sophomore year, high school student Reichard told USA Today, “Everything in here is real-life applicable.  At first I was like, man, another requirement. But in the end, it was definitely worth it.”

So if students want to learn about finances, what’s the problem? The reason for a lack of the personal finance requirement is often that states and school districts simply lack the funding or personnel to implement classes.

This is a perfect place for credit unions to get involved. Spending time with local schools is a great way to build your brand with a younger demographic while also providing important financial education to students who need it, and there are plenty of ways to do this.

The 15 credit unions who generously sponsor the brass|STUDENT PROGRAM, have stepped in to help fill this need.  Thanks to these institutions, high schools across the country receive free resources to teach students about the money side of life.  Sponsors don’t just provide the materials, they also volunteer in the classroom, bringing real-world knowledge into the classroom.

Here at brass, we have a goal of eventually reaching every young adult in the country to help them make confident choices.  Because, requirement or not, we believe that financial education is everyone’s business.


Laura Edmonston

Laura Edmonston

Laura Edmonston is the Director of Education for the brass Student Program. Laura holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon and a Master’s degree from Louisiana ... Web: Details