The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Grading U.S. states on teaching financial literacy: Some earn A’s, while others flunk

The third report card of the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College highlights the mixed record around the country — including in the D.C. region, where the District earned an F, while Virginia aced it and Maryland received a B.  (See all grades below.)

The grades are only a slight improvement from those given in 2015, when 24 percent of states and the District earned an F. They underscore findings of the 2016 Survey of the States conducted by the nonprofit Council for Economic Education, which found “slow growth in personal finance education in recent years and no improvement in economic education.” That 2016 survey said that only 20 states required high school students to take a course in economics, two fewer than in 2014, and only 17 states required high school students to take a course in personal finance, the same as in 2014.

The “National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools” notes that even a B “does not necessarily mean that a state requires an adequate level of instruction.” Half of the states that earned B’s, the Champlain center estimates, allocate less than one-quarter of a half-year course in high school to personal finance topics. That means that students in eight of those states get between seven and 13 hours of personal finance instruction in all of high school.

The report card says that teaching financial literacy to students, even as early as elementary school, is vital because every young person eventually is put in situations where they need to manage their own daily living expenses. It also lists among the reasons for the importance of financial literacy education:

*The number of financial decisions an individual must make continues to increase, and the variety and complexity of financial products continues to grow. Young people often do not understand debit and credit cards, mortgages, banking, investment and insurance products and services, payday lending, rent-to-own products, credit reports, credit scores, etc.

*Many students do not understand that one of the most important financial decisions they will make in their lives is choosing whether they should go to college after high school, and if they decide to pursue additional education, what field to specialize in.

Because high school seems like the “best and most logical place to deliver personal finance education to America’s youth,” the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College decided to grade states and the District on their policies in delivering such lessons.

Here’s how all the states and the District fared on the 2017 report card: