You can’t graduate from high school without learning the fundamentals of biology, math and social studies, but most Americans still enter adulthood without receiving even a basic primer on subjects like personal finance, credit, budgeting and investing.
According to the Council For Economic Education, only half of the states in America require even a single course on personal finance as a prerequisite for graduation.
Fortunately, the financial literacy movement is gaining momentum, with many states proposing and/or passing legislation to make this type of education a mandatory requirement for high school graduation. Here’s a look at the status of legislation regarding financial literacy requirements in 25 states.
Arkansas is a bit ahead of the game when it comes to adding personal finance education to high school curriculums — it not only passed a bill, but signed it into law. Senate Bill 599, “An Act To Establish the Arkansas Financial Education Commission,” became Act 1025. The Commission established by the act will manage and implement financial literacy educational plans and programs.
Hawaii has a number of pieces of legislation addressing financial education in schools. Senate Concurrent Resolution 152 urges the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to require at least a half credit in financial literacy in order for students to graduate. The resolution was adopted in its final form on April 20, 2021.
Nebraska’s LB452, which aims to introduce fundamental financial literacy education during early and secondary education, passed the legislative body in May 2021 and was signed by the governor six days later. Starting in 2023-24, every high school student in the state will be required to take a full semester of personal finance education in order to graduate.
The Colorado General Assembly passed HB21-1200 on June 1, 2021. The governor signed the bill into law the very same day. The act aims to ensure that students in grades 9-12 acquire financial literacy skills with real-world applications, including understanding the costs of postsecondary education, managing student loan debt and understanding credit card debt, mortgage and homeownership costs, as well as retirement plans and investments.
Nevada’s Assembly Bill 19 revises the requirements and classifications of various subjects that are required in the state’s schools. One of the most notable changes is that financial literacy is now one of the subjects that are incorporated into the state’s curriculum. The bill was approved by the governor on May 28, 2021.
On June 1, 2021, the Rhode Island governor signed into law HB5491, “An Act Relating to Education — Financial Literacy.” In consultation with the Rhode Island Department of Education, HB5491 required the council on elementary and secondary education to develop and approve statewide academic standards for the instruction of consumer education in public high schools no later than Dec. 31, 2021, which it did. The first courses will roll out at the start of the 2022-23 school year.
Texas joined the financial literacy movement on June 8, 2021, when its governor signed into law Senate Bill 1063. This legislation deals with implementing courses in economics and personal financial literacy for high school students in public schools. According to the text of the bill, “The course…includes instruction in personal financial literacy and career skills sufficient to meet the requirements for one-half credit.”
California legislators recently pushed two financial literacy bills, AB639 and AB423.
AB423 would have required the State Department of Education to implement a financial literacy pilot program beginning in the 2022-23 school year, but the bill died in committee on Jan. 31. AB639 proposes to incorporate a financial literacy program into an economics course commencing with the 2022-23 school year. As of April 22, the bill has not yet been adopted.
Massachusetts has three pieces of financial literacy legislation in the works, but thus far none of the bills have gained much traction. SD1321 aims to develop personal financial literacy standards and objectives from grades pre-K to 12. H42, sponsored by the state’s treasurer, proposes to set up a separate fund known as the Financial Literacy Trust Fund. SD1948 would require that financial literacy be a required subject in all public schools.
The good news is that the governor signed Chapter 438 of the Acts of 2018: “An Act Relative to Financial Literacy in Schools” into law in 2019. The act requires the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to help the state’s schools choose materials and develop curricula on personal financial literacy.
Maine has had mixed success when it comes to passing financial literacy education, but it does have one recently passed bill on the books. LD68, signed by the governor on June 14, 2021, supports life and career readiness education in the state. LD701, which proposed to add instruction in financial literacy and social-emotional competence to the minimum requirements for a high school diploma, was voted out of committee with the designator “Ought Not To Pass.”
Michigan has two pieces of legislation that are slowly working their way through the process. HB5190 has a number of provisions but includes the requirement of a half-credit course in personal finance in order for students to graduate. It passed the House on Dec. 1, 2021.
HB4590 adds financial literacy as an acceptable course to help satisfy the state’s requirement for at least four credits in mathematics.
Minnesota’s financial literacy bill HF1617 is officially dead in the water. The legislation as written proposed a requirement for the completion of an online personal finance course for credit during students’ senior year of high school.
Lawmakers, however, have not given up — there are several other bills on the table. HF 562 would modify social studies graduation requirements to include personal finance as an acceptable option. HF 705 does the same thing for civics requirements. HF 1617 would require a personal finance class for graduation. Several other bills were written to secure grants and other funding for personal finance education.
New Hampshire passed a bill that would have added personal financial literacy to the list of criteria for what defines an “adequate education.” The governor, however, vetoed HB242 on July 30, 2021. A similar bill, HB1671, passed the House on March 15.
Two bills are on the table in New Jersey. AR 41 urges the state BOE to require school districts to incorporate financial literacy into math and social studies curricula. AB1296 requires the state BOE to include tuition assistance instruction into its graduation requirements.
In New York, Bill A06234, sponsored by Assembly Member Josh Jensen, would require all public and private schools to provide financial literacy education to pupils in grade 11, according to the text of the bill. There had been no legislative progress on this bill since March 12, 2021, but it was finally introduced on Jan. 5, 2022.
This year, New York lawmakers introduced several bills that would incorporate financial literacy education in high schools, and in a few cases, as early as fourth grade, including:
- AB 329
- AB 731
- AB 2384
- AB 5516
- AB 5978
- AB 6234
- AB 7220
Ohio’s governor signed financial literacy education bill SB1 into law on Oct. 28, 2021. SB1 has wide-ranging objectives, including the creation of a financial literacy fund, the requirement for a one-half unit of instruction in financial literacy and the establishment of a validating credential to teach personal finance.
Pennsylvania’s HB242 calls for personal finance education as a requirement for graduation. The bill also establishes the Personal Finance Education Fund and makes it an appropriation. However, the bill is still a long way from becoming law, as it has been stuck in the legislative phase since Jan. 25, 2021.
The House Committee on Education sponsored a bill in Kansas that would have allowed a financial literacy course to count as a one-half credit toward the state’s mathematics requirement. However, the state’s governor vetoed HB2301 in 2021 and there weren’t enough votes to override that veto.
Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Witkos, SB1033 would require at least one credit in financial literacy toward the state’s high school graduation requirements. However, the bill has been stuck in the Senate Committee on Appropriations since April 28, 2021, despite its “ought to pass” designation.
Georgia bill HB861 proposed to update the state’s core curriculum to include a mandatory course in financial literacy for students in grades 10 and 11. The Senate tabled HB861 in March 2021, but it was taken off the table at the start of 2022 and the Senate passed the measure on April 4.
Illinois legislators have proposed three different financial literacy education bills, but only one is currently under consideration. Bills HB157 and SB1830 both died in the legislative process, and only SB1556 is still being debated. However, SB1556 doesn’t propose any actual financial literacy education requirements. Rather, the bill would create a volunteer Financial Literacy Task Force that would submit a report of recommendations to the General Assembly and governor on or before Dec. 31, 2022.
Several bills are in the works in Maryland. HB 200 requires the state DOE to include financial literacy in school curricula. HB 630 requires the state BOE to launch a pilot program for financial literacy education. HB 985, which passed the House on March 16, requires the state BOE to develop a curriculum for a financial literacy course for every public school in the state.
In New Mexico, HB 130 would allow personal finance to count as an elective in sixth through eighth grades. SB 177 would require one half-unit of personal finance and economics to graduate.
Oregon bill HB3232 would have established financial literacy as a requirement to earn a high school diploma. The Oregon legislature killed the bill by adjourning without bringing it to a vote in 2021. There aren’t any other financial literacy education bills currently before the Oregon legislature.
South Carolina has several bills in the works, including:
- HB 3116: Would require a half-credit course in personal finance for graduation
- HB 4582: Would incorporate personal finance literacy into social studies curricula
- SB 405: Would require every high school to offer half-credit personal finance classes as electives or mathematics courses
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Andrew Lisa contributed to the reporting for this article.