A bill has been making the rounds since 2009 that would require high schools in New York state to mandate that all graduating students complete a personal financial literacy course. Unfortunately, this proposal has yet to gain traction in the state legislature, and New York is not one of the growing handful of states that requires high school students to take such a class. That situation, however, may soon change. There is growing support in the state from students themselves and the state comptroller to require a high school personal financial literacy course. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says New York needs to prepare its citizens for financial literacy better, as a high percentage of residents struggle with debt.
Financial Literacy Efforts in New York
For those in New York City, the New York Public Library offers some free financial education services, including free tax filing for those with annual incomes up to $49,000. The New York City department of Consumer and Worker Protection also provides resources. A free tax filing preparation service is available for those making up to $72,000 per year. Those wanting to open savings accounts can open an NYC SafeStart Account with no monthly or overdraft fees, and several credit unions have partnered with the Consumer and Worker Protection department to offer these accounts. For those worried about financial scams, the state Attorney General’s website offers a plethora of knowledge and resources on how to avoid scams and report suspected scammers.
New Yorkers wanting to know more about their tax responsibilities in the state, such as the state’s income tax, can visit the Department of Taxation and Finance website and take educational classes. However, many state residents may be unaware of these resources due to a lack of financial education. Two legislative committees, the Insurance Law Committee and the Education and the Law Committee, have publicly urged the legislature to pass a bill proposed by state senator Leroy Comrie, requiring high school personal finance education. The committees lamented that, although the state is known as an international finance hub, it ranks poorly in financial education.
Although similar predecessors have not passed, the growing support for financial literacy may push it past the finish line during the next legislative session. There are also bills to introduce financial literacy education in elementary schools, providing a solid foundation for New Yorkers to manage their money. And on an individual level, some high schools have taken it upon themselves to offer personal financial literacy courses: the elite Stuyvesant High School is now offering a personal finance class. The move by the New York City school, championed by senior Anisha Singhal, has been popular with students and expanded from one section in 2021-22 to two sections this year. It’s a great sign when teenagers realize the importance of understanding personal finance before heading out into the real world!
Fortunately, on a wide scale, the City University of New York (CUNY) system has also been teaching personal financial literacy courses at high schools, benefiting up to 20,000 students each year. These courses are electives intended to be flexible, such as incorporating students from multiple high schools. And some school districts, such as Albany, offer financial literacy classes as part of the current high school curriculum.