As Personal Financial Literacy Education Grows Nationally, Maryland Lags

Nationally, data indicate that financial literacy is growing and states are increasingly prioritizing the issue in public education. During the 2022 session of the Maryland General Assembly, lawmakers tackled the issue and passed a bill requiring k-12 public curriculums to incorporate financial literacy.

K-12 Dive, a website that provides “journalism and insight into the most impactful news and trends shaping K-12 education,” recently published a deep dive on financial literacy education in the United States. That analysis found that:

  • National access to financial education has increased slightly since 2018, when just five states required personal finance courses for all high-schoolers and 16.4% of high school graduates took such a course, according to a new report published by nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance.
  • In 2022, eight states had implemented standalone personal finance courses and 22.7% of high school graduates had taken one. Four additional states — Florida, Ohio, Rhode Island and Nebraska — are currently implementing financial course requirements statewide, which will bump the states requiring some finance material to 12 and the percentage of students taking those courses to 32.5%.
  • At 48.2%, more students had access in 2022 to optional personal finance courses rather than required courses. On the other hand, 4.8% of high school students had no access to financial education in 2022, the report found.

K-12 found, however, that despite the increased prioritization of financial literacy, deep inequities continue to exist in accessing such education for students of color and low-income students:

The study of nearly 12,000 public high schools serving 12,135,504 high-schoolers shows access to be inequitable, especially for Black, Hispanic and low-income students.

In schools with more than 75% of students eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch or more than three-quarters Black and brown student populations, only 1 in 20 students have ensured access to financial education courses, a review of course catalogs found.

Where does Maryland stand?

During the 2022 legislative session, Maryland lawmakers failed to pass bill (HB 200) to require financial literacy education in the state’s public schools. In fact, that bill has been introduced for several years now, consistently failing to receive a vote in committee.

Currently, Maryland has a patchwork of requirements, with only Allegany, Calvert, Caroline, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, and Prince George’s Counties include financial literacy among their graduation requirements. To that effect, the Nation’s Report Card on Financial Literacy from the American Public Education Foundation grades Maryland’s overall financial literacy at only a C, having developed educational curriculum on the topic, but failing to mandate its teaching for all Maryland students, despite policymakers considering the topic for years.

In 2008, lawmakers passed a bill to create a Task Force to Study How to Improve Financial Literacy in the State to “study the current ability of high school students to understand basic financial concepts, evaluate the current provision of financial literacy education in Maryland’s public schools, and assess the utility of financial literacy education as part of primary and secondary education.”

Based on that task force’s recommendations, the (then) state superintendent of schools implemented “a Financial Literacy Education Design Team to develop financial literacy education content standards- statements about what students should know and be able to do” and a “Financial Literacy Advisory Council to oversee the work of the design team and help leverage resources.” The design team then created content standards to serve as the framework for Maryland’s Personal Financial Literacy State Curriculum.

Notably, the Maryland State Curriculum for Personal Financial Literacy Education is based on the JumpStart National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education and Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Personal Financial Literacy.

With only a handful of local jurisdictions adopting the standards, however, it’s Marylanders who stand to lose. In a recent Baltimore Sun op-ed on the topic, Ray Martinez (president and co-founder of EVERFI Inc., a social impact education technology company) stressed that, “This deficit of effective financial education perpetuates the cycles of debt and poverty and reduces the opportunity for upward socio-economic mobility and a secure future, especially for those living in under-resourced communities.”

If policymakers are to follow analysis from K-12 Drive, it’s not only timely to prioritize financial literacy in education, it’s also necessary: “in the 42 states that currently don’t require it, fewer than one in 10 students are guaranteed a personal finance course.”

Whether Maryland legislators revisit the issue in the 2023 legislative session is to be scene.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more on financial literacy and education.

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