From pandemic shutdowns to supply chain disruptions to crazy inflation, our country’s economy has been through the wringer these past few years. So it’s no surprise that many states are introducing new financial literacy requirements for high school students.
Maybe you’re a parent who’s curious if your kid will have to take a financial literacy class this school year. Maybe you’re a teacher who’ll lead the class. Or maybe you’re just a concerned citizen. Whatever the reason, you’re here because you’ve found yourself wondering, Which states require financial literacy in high school? Well, let’s dig in and find out!
What Is Financial Literacy?
Before we dive into which states require a financial literacy course in high school, here’s a refresher on what financial literacy even means. Financial literacy is the personal finance knowledge and skills you need to handle your money well. Think skills like how to budget, how to save for emergencies, how to get—and stay—out of debt, and how to build wealth for the future.
Are you a teacher? Help your students win with money today!
And a personal finance course like Foundations in Personal Finance teaches students financial literacy and helps them develop the money habits they’ll use for the rest of their lives. That way, they can graduate high school with the knowledge and skills most adults wish they had.
Which States Require Financial Literacy in High School?
Okay, grab your popcorn for this one. Right now, 27 states (and counting) require schools to offer a personal finance course.1 But that doesn’t mean all 27 require students to actually take a personal finance course in high school to graduate. In fact, only 15 states currently require students to take a financial literacy course to graduate.2,3 And today, we’ll focus on just those 15 states.
So, here they are, folks! Let’s see if your state made the list.
Now that you know which states made the list, let’s go on a quick road trip through the states and see what each one requires.
Alabama’s Financial Literacy Requirements
We’ll start in the Heart of Dixie. In the 2013–14 school year, Alabama launched its Career Preparedness course as a requirement for high school graduation.4 The course covers everything from college prep to business and industry skills to personal finance. While the course isn’t a stand-alone personal finance course, 44% of the course’s hours are dedicated to personal finance topics, making it almost the equivalent of a half-credit personal finance course.5
Florida’s Financial Literacy Requirements
Now for the Sunshine State. In March 2022, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis signed the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, which requires students to take a half-credit stand-alone personal finance course to graduate, beginning with freshmen entering high school in the 2023–24 school year.6
Georgia’s Financial Literacy Requirements
Moving on to the Deep South, where the tea only comes sweet—the great state of Georgia (go Dawgs!). Beginning in the 2024–25 school year, all juniors and seniors in Georgia will be required to take at least a half-credit course in financial literacy to graduate.7 And get this: That credit can count for a math, social studies or other required elective credit.
Iowa’s Financial Literacy Requirements
And now for the home of the original Maid-Rite—Iowa. Starting with this graduating class of 2023, all of Iowa’s high school students are required to take a one-half unit course in personal finance.8
If that year sounds new, it’s because it is. Back in 2019, when Governor Kim Reynolds signed the financial literacy requirement into law, it was supposed to kick off with the graduating class of 2021. But schools needed more time to implement the changes, so House File 420 changed the start date to begin with the graduating class of 2023.9
Michigan’s Financial Literacy Requirements
In the Great Lakes State, on June 16, 2022, Michigan’s governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 5190. The bill requires all high school students to take a half-credit personal finance course before graduation, beginning with students entering 8th grade in 2023.10
Mississippi’s Financial Literacy Requirements
Next up is Mississippi—known for its southern charm and bluegrass music. Beginning with the 2022 graduating class, students in Mississippi are required to take the yearlong College and Career Readiness course to graduate.11 Students will learn everything from developing a plan to pay for college to choosing a career path to setting goals. Financial literacy is also one of the eight units covered in the course.
Missouri’s Financial Literacy Requirements
All right, now we’re traveling north to the Show-Me State. Missouri is one of the few states that already required a stand-alone half-credit personal finance course for graduation before all these other states joined the bandwagon. In 2017, the Missouri State Board of Education updated the state’s graduation requirements for Missouri students and introduced the requirement for the 2019–20 school year.12 Way to go, Missou-ree (or is it Missou-rah?).
Nebraska’s Financial Literacy Requirements
Nebraska, you’ve got corn, corn and—oh, look—more corn. But also some personal finance education in the works. Beginning with the 2023–24 school year, every student in Nebraska who attends public high school has to take at least a half-credit course in personal finance to graduate.13 Keep on living that good life, Nebraska.
North Carolina’s Financial Literacy Requirements
In 2019, North Carolina passed House Bill 924, making the full-credit course Economics and Personal Finance a requirement for high school graduation.14 The class focuses on economics, personal finance, financial planning, how to be a wise consumer, and more.15 The bill went into effect for students who entered high school the following year in 2020.
Ohio’s Financial Literacy Requirements
All right, now for the only state where you’re guaranteed a response from random strangers by shouting “O-H!” In Ohio, all students entering 9th grade for the first time after July 1, 2022, are required to take a half-credit financial literacy course to graduate high school.16
Rhode Island’s Financial Literacy Requirements
Okay, for all you Rhode Island folks, buckle up. This requirement’s a bit of a bumpy ride. In June 2021, Governor Dan McKee signed RIGL 16-22-13, which requires new personal finance standards for high school graduation.17
The law requires each school to offer a course that aligns with the state’s new consumer education standards. (Note: It didn’t say students had to take the course.) And beginning with the graduating class of 2024, all students will have to demonstrate proficiency in consumer education in order to graduate high school. But that’s not all (leave it to legislation to keep it complicated).
To demonstrate proficiency, students can choose one of the following:
- Pass a consumer education course.
- Complete a project.
- Pass a consumer education assessment.
- Complete some other requirement that hasn’t been nailed down yet.
Whew! That was a lot. If you’re from Rhode Island, good luck with that one!
South Carolina’s Financial Literacy Requirements
Drumroll, please—the most recent state to introduce a personal finance requirement is . . . South Carolina! Through an update to South Carolina’s 2022–23 state budget, lawmakers were able to push through regulations to update their high school graduation criteria and require a half-credit personal finance course. Now it’s on the South Carolina Department of Education to put together regulations and a start date for the new requirement by September 30, 2022.18 So, stay tuned!
Tennessee’s Financial Literacy Requirements
The Volunteer State has had its personal finance graduation requirement in the books for a while now. Beginning with the graduating class of 2013, all of Tennessee’s high school students have been required to take a half-credit personal finance course to graduate.19 And that requirement is still going strong today!
Utah’s Financial Literacy Requirements
Next up is Utah, the first state to ever require a financial literacy course for high school graduation. Way to go, Beehive State! So, here’s the scoop: Back in 2003, Senate Bill 154 was signed into law, requiring a one-semester financial literacy course for graduation. The next year, the Utah State Board of Education approved a one-semester class called General Financial Literacy and implemented it with the 2008 graduating class. Currently, Utah requires every high schooler to take a half-credit general financial literacy class to graduate.20
Virginia’s Financial Literacy Requirements
And last but not least is Virginia. The Old Dominion State has also had its personal finance education requirement in the books for a while now. In 2009, the Virginia Board of Education updated graduation requirements to include a stand-alone full-credit course in economics and personal finance. The new requirement went into effect with students who entered 9th grade in 2011.21
Why Is Taking a Financial Literacy Course in High School Important?
Think back to when you were in high school. How would you rate your money smarts? If you’re like most Americans, you’d probably admit there’s a lot you didn’t know. And honestly, even most adults nowadays aren’t very financially literate. In fact:
- 36% of Americans said they would be unable to cover a $400 emergency.22
- 78% of Americans feel like they live paycheck to paycheck.23
In our 2021 State of Personal Finance Survey, we also found that:
- 42% of Americans aren’t saving for retirement.
- 1 in 4 Americans are in collections for at least one of their debts.
And that’s not all. This lack of personal finance knowledge is causing people stress and frustration, and it’s keeping them up at night:
- 43% of Americans worry about their finances daily.
- 34% of Americans lose sleep over their personal finances.
- 47% of Americans are always worried they’ll have an emergency they can’t afford.
- 56% of Americans feel behind on their retirement savings goals.
Personal experience can be a great (but expensive) teacher—especially when it comes to money. But when students take a financial literacy course in high school, they learn about the dangers of student loans and establish good money habits early on.
And that’s why we created the Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum. It’s basically the money course you wish you’d had in high school. And it provides teachers with everything they need to teach their students how to handle their money the right way, how to get through college (and life) without debt, and how to build wealth for the future.
Financial Literacy Courses Teach Students About the Danger of Student Loans
The biggest financial obstacle students will face after high school graduation is student loans. It’s no secret that the student loan industry is going crazy right now. As of 2021, our country faces $1.59 trillion (yep, we’re way past billions) in student loan debt.24
And all that debt is killing the American Dream because people are putting off major life events just to pay it off. See for yourself:
- 21% of young Millennials delay getting married.
- 40% of young Millennials delay saving for retirement.
- 47% of young Millennials delay buying a home.25
Yikes, those numbers are just sad! But there’s good news. When students take a personal finance course, they’re 23% less likely to plan to use student loans to pay for college.26
Financial Literacy Courses Help Students Establish Good Money Habits
When students take a personal finance course in high school, they’re not only more likely to go to college debt-free, but they’re also more likely to practice the money principles they’ve learned in their everyday lives. In our Students and Money National Research Study, we asked 76,000 high school students who’ve taken a personal finance course how that class changed the way they handle their money. Here’s what we found out:
- Nearly 8 in 10 create a monthly budget for their money.
- 20% paid for their car by themselves.
- Nearly 80% have their own bank accounts.
And those bank accounts aren’t just sitting around waiting for that next round of birthday cash. Two-thirds of high schoolers said they’re earning money and bringing in an average monthly income of $243, or $3,000 per year. Now that’s the power of personal finance education!
How Are States Paying for Financial Literacy in High Schools?
How states choose to fund these new financial literacy requirements is all over the place. Some states will include funding in the bill along with the requirement. Some will pass a funding bill later in the year (usually before the requirement goes into effect).
But for some states, the new requirement never gets funded, making it an unfunded mandate.
What Are Unfunded Mandates?
An unfunded mandate is when a higher authority, such as a state or local government, puts new requirements in place but doesn’t provide the funding to back them up.
This can happen when a state passes legislation requiring financial literacy education without approving the funding to pay for it. And without funding, teachers are left to scrape together whatever resources they can find. But the resources they can afford (free or low-cost) end up—you guessed it—pushing debt and credit cards as a “smart” way to manage money. And that’s just not okay!
How You Can Help Provide Financial Literacy for Students
Well, there you have it. Now you know which states require financial literacy in high school, why it’s important, and how it does (or sometimes doesn’t) get funded. But what does that all mean for you?
If you’re a teacher, you can make sure your students learn how to handle their money the right way with the Foundations in Personal Finance curriculum. It’s designed to equip teachers like you (no matter what subject you teach) with everything you need. Oh, and our money experts do the teaching for you—so you don’t have to sweat trying to explain a 401(k) or compound interest.
If you’re not a teacher, you can still make sure students get access to this life-changing curriculum by joining our community of sponsors. It’s where individuals all across the country contribute whatever they can to provide Foundations in Personal Finance for schools that don’t have the funding to offer it. Whether you give $5, $20 or $50, every contribution helps provide curriculum for students.
So, no matter what state you live in, you can equip students with the money skills they’ll need now and for the rest of their lives. And that’s a cause we can all get behind.