A pair of motivated high school students in Colorado are hoping that their state joins the 23 others that have achieved the “gold standard” of financial literacy education. The seniors at Northfield High School want Colorado to require a one-semester Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) class for high school graduation. Additionally, they want financial literacy topics addressed in multiple grades instead of just once.
Impressively, the duo has already achieved some policy success: they have gotten Denver Public Schools to add financial literacy education to the student bill of rights! They are also involved in youth organizations to improve financial literacy, including the Young Americans Center for Financial Education. Although the state of Colorado is supportive of expanding financial literacy education at the high school level, it has yet to mandate the course for graduation.
Students Advocating For Their Own Interests Is Inspiring
Oliver Deines and Krish Vipani are far from the only high school students who have advocated for more financial literacy education in recent years. In Connecticut, students helped generate public support for that state’s own bill to mandate a PFL class as part of graduation requirements. In New York, students also tried to boost public support and get state legislators to pursue a PFL bill. Students in Dallas, Texas, even wanted summer classes on personal finance topics to help prepare for the real world!
These grassroots efforts are likely to be successful in the long run because it is hard not to be inspired by young people advocating for their own education. Typically, additional educational requirements are imposed on students against their will. It is rather unique for students to say that they want more education on a specific topic! While legislators and governors may not be eager to spend additional funds on new courses and graduation requirements, it is hard to deny the public education that it desires and is universally beneficial. Political pressure to increase financial literacy education will only intensify as Generation Z and Generation Alpha struggle with soaring college costs, a tough post-graduation job market, and rising costs of living.
Policymakers Want to Know New Courses Will be Accepted
Adding an across-the-board high school graduation requirement can be daunting. Policymakers want to be very confident that new requirements can be implemented smoothly and not cause embarrassment or headaches. If students and parents do not accept a graduation requirement, it may fail after a few years, frustrating parents, administrators, and education policymakers.
Fortunately, financial literacy is a popular subject that will likely receive strong student and parent support.
If teenagers themselves are calling for a specific class, there will be positive peer pressure on campuses to get other students to accept and engage in the new class. Schools will not have to work overtime to force high school juniors and seniors to engage in and try to pass the new PFL class – they will want to do it of their own volition! Knowing that the information they learn in class will have a direct impact on their financial future will almost certainly engage the vast majority of teenagers, ranging from those on the Ivy League track to those who want to enter a trade immediately after high school graduation.