Should NYC high schools be required to teach financial literacy?

A bill that would require high school students across the state to take a personal finance course has been repeatedly introduced in the Albany legislature since 2009, but has yet to pass. “It’s something every child needs to do, and we kind of have to do it at our own pace, without any guidance,” said Anisha Singhal, a student at Stuyvesant High School, who pushes further schools to teach financial skills. .

Adi Talwar

Anisha Singhal, a senior at Stuyvesant High School, wants more schools to offer financial literacy classes.

“The math before credit scores?”

That’s the question Stuyvesant High School student Anisha Shinghal posed in an op-ed in her school’s newspaper last April, in which she argued that New York high schools should offer a dedicated course in financial literacy. .

It was the second column that Singhal, the editor of her school newspaper, The Stuyvesant Spectator— had devoted to the subject. She had watched her classmates graduate and head off to college to deal with big decisions about financial aid, student loans and housing budgets, she said, many of whom were navigating those topics on the fly.

“It’s something every child needs to do, and we’re kind of pushed to do it at our own pace, without any guidance,” she said.

Only six U.S. states have required high schools to offer a stand-alone personal finance course, from a Brookings Institute 2018 Analysis, which linked low financial literacy to “a host of negative credit behaviors” like paying higher interest rates or falling behind on a mortgage. There is no standalone requirement in New York; According to the Brookings report, the state’s Common Core Framework requires high school students to take a more general economics course that only touches on a few financial literacy standards.

“It’s not really helpful for us to have just one unit on it because there’s so much to learn,” Singhal told City Limits. “It doesn’t make sense for us to gloss over everything very quickly.”

She and her peers at the school newspaper are so committed to the issue that they dedicated an edition of the paper last spring to the subject of financial literacy. “Although the ‘real world’ may seem distant to us as high school students, it won’t be long before we’re sitting in front of a pile of paperwork wondering how we’re supposed to pay off our college loan and why we don’t. never taught us how to do it,” wrote the paper’s editors, Momoca Mairaj and Maya Nelson, in a note accompanying the special issue.

Their advocacy has paid off, at least close to home: Last school year, Stuyvesant High School added a personal finance class to its elective offerings, expanding it to two sections this fall because demand Seating was so high the previous semester, some students chose to check out the course without even earning credit.

“There was one day when a student was ready to sit on the floor,” just to follow the lesson that day, said instructor David Peng, who kicked off and taught the class. “You don’t really need to hard sell students on this course,” he said.

A finance major during his undergraduate years at Carnegie Mellon University, Peng said he had long wanted his administration to launch a personal finance course and was inspired to make the suggestion after seeing the level of interest voiced by students in the school newspaper.

Her course covers bank and credit card basics, student loans, how to create and stick to a budget, savings strategies, and an introduction to investing, among other topics. Singhal, who hopes to take the course this year – if she can land a place – said she attended a class where students work out a college budget based on actual financial aid offers from schools.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a school project be so applicable to someone’s life before,” she said. She and her classmates are pushing their administration to expand the course so more students can take it, but also hope for a wider impact.

“We’re trying to inspire other schools to start the class as well, and also inspire legislation to make it a health class – a mandatory class for students so they can learn life skills.” , Singhal said.

A bill that would require high school students across the state to take a personal finance course has been repeatedly introduced in the Albany legislature since 2009, but has yet to pass. The most recent versionsponsored last year by State Senator Leroy Comrie, would have changed state education law to require students to take a pass/fail financial literacy course as a condition of graduation.

“It was time to try to get the state to take some responsibility for making sure people learned the basics of budgeting, that they understood credit and how to use it. ‘money,” Comrie told City Limits, a skill he taught early on “can actually change your life,” he added.

The bill had not made it out of the education committee at the end of the last legislative session in June, although it had the support of the Insurance Law and Education Committees of the Association of New York Bar.

Council of NYC/William Alatriste

“Teaching financial literacy in schools across our state is nearly non-existent,” the committees said in a May report arguing for the legislation. “Here in New York, considered by many to be the financial capital of the world, a student can graduate from high school and even earn an Advanced Regents degree without ever receiving this valuable and essential education.”

Comrie said he plans to introduce another version of the bill when the state legislature reconvenes in January and feels “very confident” it will pass next time. A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Education said the agency would review the legislation.

“Ensuring our students have financial literacy skills is key to helping students achieve economic security and achieve their goals after graduation,” the spokesperson said.

Sarah J. Greer