Study Says High School Students Falling Behind In Financial Literacy

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(Host)  A survey of Vermont high schools finds that while some form of financial literacy is taught in many of them, the courses are elective and they vary in what’s being taught. 

The study was conducted by the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College.  It also shows many high school teachers don’t believe students are learning what they need to know about managing finances. 

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The study found there’s not a lot of consistency in the kinds of high school courses offered or how students are assessed on what they’ve learned about financial literacy. 

In fact the majority of the educators polled feel that fewer than 30 percent of graduating seniors have reached competency in the subject. 

John Pelletier is the director of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College.

Pelletier says there’s great interest in improving what students are taught about managing money. 

(Pelletier) "One study showed that parents are more comfortable talking to their children about sex than money, and that should be troubling to all of us.  One of the questions in that high school survey that we asked administrators is do you think that beginning this in elementary school is too young and the vast majority said, ‘no’."

(Zind)  Pelletier says one idea might be to require students to take financial literacy courses.  A small percentage of Vermont schools already do that, but Pelletier says the study found broad support for the idea.

(Pelletier) "The vast majority only offer it as an elective.  Think about what an elective means.  An elective means that not everyone is going to take the course.  But most interestingly of all, 79 percent of these high school administrators felt it should be mandatory"

(Zind) To better prepare teachers, the Center for Financial Literacy has helped organize a graduate level summer institute for Vermont’s middle and high school faculty.  The institute will operate over the next three years to instruct educators in how to teach personal finance. 

For VPR news, I’m Steve Zind.

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