FloridaTrend.com, the Website for Florida Business

Education: Require Florida students to take a 'money course'

In 2010, the Legislature passed a law requiring students to complete a one-semester civics course in middle school that culminates in an exam they must pass to enter high school. Given students' lack of awareness of the Constitution and how American government works, that was a good call.

Adding more requirements to an already burdened K-12 public education agenda is problematic, but financial literacy is also fundamental to functioning in today's society. In 2013, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1076, which requires that personal finance standards be taught to all students in Florida as part of their required senior-year economics course. The law also required a report to the Legislature, which concluded that a stand-alone, full-semester money course could be offered to 11th-graders at a total cost of between around $139,000 (for a free online website) and $13 million over the first five years.

Consideration of a stand-alone money course came as the Florida Council on Economic Education convened a Financial Literacy Summit this year along with a group that included the University of South Florida, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Bay Cities Bank and the Florida Bankers Association. The group called for a full course in financial literacy coupled with testing and supported by teacher training.

Surveys consistently show that young college students are uninformed about financial fundamentals. In one survey, three-quarters of USF freshmen said they get all their information about money from friends and don't keep record of what they spend.

No high school student should graduate without a good understanding of personal finance, including realistic notions of their earnings potential along with the basics of saving and investing, managing a checking account, credit scores and college costs. Fourteen states mandate that stand-alone courses be offered, with testing, in personal financial literacy.

A study by the national-level Council for Economic Education found that students in states with required financial education courses "are more likely to save and less likely to max out their credit cards" compared to those without the courses. As Americans take on more of the financial burden of caring for ourselves and saving for our futures, the need for financial literacy will only become more important.