The “gold standard” of financial literacy education at the K-12 level is a standalone one-semester class required for high school graduation. Currently, seventeen states either already have this requirement or will soon implement it based on passed legislation. Fortunately, West Virginia may become the eighteenth state to take this plunge. In the state legislature, House Bill 3113 has passed both the House and Senate and is headed to the governor for a signature. The bill calls for the state Board of Education to develop a program on personal finance instruction for secondary students. Financial literacy education standards exist for grades 9-12, developed by FoolProof.
Although the bill does not call explicitly for creating a standalone personal finance class for high school students, it does increase accountability for learning the material beyond other states with integrated personal finance standards by requiring students to take a final exam. This creates a hybrid model that, although not as effective as a standalone class, requires students to learn personal finance concepts to maintain their grade. Other states with integrated personal finance standards, such as Texas, do not require a final exam that specifically covers finance material instead of a required standalone class.
Financial Literacy Resources in West Virginia
Fortunately, West Virginia has ample financial literacy education resources for the state Board of Education to draw on. At West Virginia University, the John Chambers College of Business and Economics hosts the Center for Financial Literacy and Education. Established in 2015, the Center promotes financial literacy across the state according to its four pillars: banking, insurance, personal finance, and investments. It is partnered with other well-known financial literacy organizations, including Next Gen Personal Finance, Jump$tart, and EVERFI.
At WVU, incoming freshmen take classes as part of a First Year Experience program, including a financial literacy course (WVU 191). Freshmen also receive online education in areas of personal finance, where the FoolProof triage survey reveals they need assistance. Through its first-in-the-nation partnership with investment company Robinhood, WVU also delivers free financial literacy education to its student-athletes. Trying to ensure universal financial literacy for WVU students should be extended to all high school seniors in the state, thus reducing the heavy lifting universities need to do to bolster these skills in college freshmen.
The WVU College of Business and Economics also hosts the Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Encova Center works with K-12 schools across the state to foster an “entrepreneurial mindset” for students. This includes sponsoring a high school business plan competition, a teen entrepreneurship summit during the summers, and partnering with Junior Achievement of West Virginia. Outside of WVU, the Education Alliance nonprofit works with both higher education and K-12 education to improve West Virginians’ financial literacy. This includes teaching high school students about college costs and expenses through Gear Up, a federally-funded program to help high school students successfully transition to college.
Improving financial literacy is one of several initiatives being pushed by West Virginia legislators, along with teacher retention and performance pay for successful educators.