New York urged to require personal finance class for high school students – Newsday

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New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has advocated making a personal finance class mandatory. Credit: Howard Simmons
The state comptroller’s office on Monday urged the Board of Regents to make instruction in personal finance a requirement for a New York high school diploma, the latest effort to require instruction that would help students become more financially literate.
The Board of Regents, which sets education policy, listened to representatives from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who had endorsed the concept of a required course on personal finance in an op-ed in November.
Beyond that, a state advisory commission on graduation requirements had recommended in November that the Regents include instruction in personal finance in diploma credit requirements.
At Monday’s meeting, the Regents took no formal action as the board continues its review. It remains unclear what form the requirement would take if adopted, including whether it would be a separate course and whether it would last one or two semesters.
The comptroller’s office representatives pointed to a study that determined that high schoolers who studied personal finance — sometimes called financial literacy — went on to have less debt, better mortgage terms and more money in the bank.
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Students aren’t currently required to take a financial literacy course in high schools across New York, though they are mandatory in a growing number of states. A total of 17 states require students to take a stand-alone class on the topic to graduate, according to Next Gen Personal Finance, a national nonprofit that tracks state legislation. The nonprofit found only 23 schools in New York that require a personal finance class to graduate, said Maria Smith, the comptroller’s director of financial literacy and education outreach.
“We found that many young people don’t have these skills. We need to change that,” Smith said.
Smith noted that a separate Champlain College study last year gave New York State a grade of B for its existing instruction in financial planning. She said the state requires such teaching in high school economics, but added that many teachers only spend a week or two on the subject.
“We’ve got some room to improve,” she said.
Smith defined financial literacy in terms of several principals of money management: earning, saving and investing, protecting, spending and borrowing. She said it could be covered in a one semester class.
During Monday’s discussion, Joseph Galante, assistant comptroller for strategic planning, lauded the Westbury school district’s efforts to teach students personal finance. The district worked with a nonprofit to obtain free curriculum, free teacher development and a $10,000 grant, he said.
Several Board of Regents members have voiced support for adding personal finance as a requirement to obtain a high school diploma.
Roger Tilles, Long Island’s longtime representative on the board, said he was pleased the board was moving in the direction, and that he expected formal action within a few months.
“It needs to be in schools,” Tilles said. “I believe it should be a mandate that districts require it for graduation.”
DiNapoli, in his op-ed in amNewYork, stressed the importance of young people learning about personal finance.
“The stresses associated with financial difficulties can adversely affect one’s physical or mental health and hurt family members as well,” he said. “Education in financial literacy can be an important step toward accessing a better job, improving one’s quality of life, and providing peace of mind.”
Craig Schneider is a Long Island native and Stony Brook University alumnus. He joined Newsday as a general assignment reporter in January 2018 after 20 years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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