There’s been a move over the past few years to help young Americans learn how to manage their money better. And it’s long overdue. It can be easy to wonder what sort of problems financial literacy courses could have prevented for the generations before those who are in school now.

In recent months, Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, and Rhode Island have signed laws creating a requirement that high school students take financial courses in order to graduate. In all, a dozen states have similar laws on the books. Georgia joined the ranks of those states this week.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law on Thursday that will include personal finance classes in the state’s high school curriculum. Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, 11th- and 12th-grade students will be required to take a course in financial literacy to graduate.

The new law “will ensure that [students] learn financial literacy in our schools, like the importance of good credit and how to budget properly so that they can be better prepared for the world beyond the classroom,” Kemp said, as reported by CNBC.

Next Gen Personal Finance, an organization that is advocating for raising financial literacy among students, stated in its 2022 annual report that, because of the states that have passed legislation, 22.7% of high schoolers in this year’s senior class will have graduated with personal finance education. When Georgia’s law goes into effect, along with those of other states whose laws haven’t gone into effect this school year, that percentage will go up.

Right now, roughly half of high school students nationwide have options for financial classes as an elective, but we all know that it doesn’t mean that students will take those classes.

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“The surge in new statewide financial education guarantees – from 5 states in 2018 to 12 states in 2022 – will continue as expected in the coming school years,” the report states. “However, the nationwide community of educators who are expanding access to Personal Finance courses locally must also accelerate.”

Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have bills before their legislatures that should pass in the next few months. Experts say that these classes help provide equal opportunities for students when they leave school.

When states don’t require personal finance classes, many school systems don’t think they have the resources to effectively educate their students on money management.

“A lot of schools that don’t feel like they have the resources to implement this course end up not doing it,” said Next Gen Personal Finance’s Yanely Espinal. “If it’s not already a requirement, then that means it’s just so much less likely that they’ll have the resources, in terms of human capital, that can then serve every student.”

A recent survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education showed that 88% of adults favor required personal finance classes for students. Four-fifths of those surveyed wish they had had the opportunity to take a class like that themselves when they were in school.

“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,” noted Billy Hensley, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Financial Education.

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