Maine May Join Other States With Financial Literacy Requirement for Students

State may become latest to require kids learn real-world personal finance skills
A student writes at her desk.

Maine legislators are considering a new bill that would require the state’s students to take a personal finance course in order to graduate, part of a slowly growing trend in education across the U.S.

The Maine lawmakers held a public hearing on the proposal last week, with backers of the bill saying it can help young people learn the financial literacy they’ll need as adults, a CBS affiliate reported.

State Senator Matt Pouliot, who introduced the bill, said he wants to ensure students are prepared to manage their financial health and are better informed about the important money decisions in their lives.

“By teaching them about finance early on, we can better prepare them to make wise choices about their futures,” Pouliot said in a statement released by the Maine Senate’s Republican caucus.

According to the bill’s current language, the new law would create mandatory standards for financial education at Maine public schools, just like the current standards for English, math and other key subjects.

Just 1 in 6 American high school students are required to take a personal finance course to graduate, according to a 2017 study by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy. The report assigned “A” grades for financial education to just five states: Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia.

But that group could soon widen as other states also seek to add personal finance components to their curricula.

For example, South Carolina saw a new bill introduced recently that would require high schoolers to take a half-credit finance course and pass a test on the subject in order to graduate, beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

And last month, New Jersey enacted a new law adding personal finance to its middle school curriculum, starting this September.

Personal finance can be a weak spot for many Americans. An Ally Financial survey in 2017 found that 61% of adults say they find investing “scary or intimidating.”

Requiring some level of financial education could help dispel this kind of anxiety — whether about monitoring and dealing with credit scores or learning the ins and outs of budgeting.

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