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Financial skills should be a requirement

As I scrolled through headlines this week, one caught my attention in particular. WRAL’s website reported that a new proposed NC Senate bill would require a financial literacy class for high school students across the state.

Senate Bill 134 was filed on Feb. 26, primarily sponsored by two Republicans and one Democrat. According to the NC General Assembly website, several other sponsors for the bill were listed as well, including Erica Smith who represents local counties Northampton and Bertie. And according to WRAL’s article, even Lt. Governor Dan Forest vocally supported the proposal.

Even though there is already some financial literacy included in the state curriculum, this new bill would institute an entire course dedicated to the subject. And students would have to pass the class in order to graduate.

A current draft of the bill is available online at the NC General Assembly website. It lists several topics the course would cover, including the true cost of credit, how to manage a credit card, how to borrow money for large purchases, home mortgages, credit reports, how to plan and pay for postsecondary education, and other relevant financial issues.

WRAL reported that over $2 million would be needed to implement the program in schools across North Carolina. A lot of that money would go towards teacher training and certification.

If the bill passes, the class would begin with the 2020-2021 school year.

I’m the first to admit I don’t closely follow the day-to-day work of our state’s legislature, and often I am skeptical about a lot of the bills that I do hear about. But this one seems like an excellent idea (if there’s enough money to fund it). Of course, as the bill moves through the Senate and then the House and on to the governor’s desk, many parts of it can be changed along the way. But, in theory, I like the idea as it is now.

I remember taking an accounting class when I was in high school. I also took one economics class through Roanoke-Chowan Community College. That was the extent of my financial education from what I remember. Both classes provided important knowledge, but not a lot about the things that would be covered in this new class.

Luckily, I have parents who have helped me fill in the gaps, helping me steer through complicated things like loans and credit scores and more. But a lot of it still confuses me at times. What about the teens out there who don’t have that luxury? Where will they learn these skills needed to navigate situations in the “real world” once school is over?

That’s why I think it’s important to include this kind of course in school. We send kids to school to get a well-rounded education in a variety of subjects. It’s about time we devoted more time to developing practical skills in finance to complete that education.

I did a little bit of digging on the subject and came across a 2017 report from Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy. They looked at national data and graded each state on its efforts to improve financial literacy among students. Only five states (Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri, and Utah) received an “A” grade. North Carolina received a “B” grade because they included financial literacy as part of a required course but did not devote an entire class to the subject.

There are still several states, however, that do not have personal finance instruction as a graduation requirement. Hopefully more states will improve in this area in the future.

It’s not often these days we see Democrats and Republicans joining together on an issue, but this one has support on both sides. I’ll be interested to see if this bill passes. It certainly seems like it would be a benefit to North Carolina’s students.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.