By Esther Fultz
Rising inflation rates coupled with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have created an economic situation in our country that is less than ideal. While many Americans today rely on the federal government to address such challenges, a new Ohio education requirement strives for economic improvement on a much smaller, more individual scale. Beginning next school year, all incoming public school freshmen will be required to take a semester-long financial literacy class at some point during their high school career.
Dr. Dave Leitch, Associate Professor of Special Education, said he fully supports the new requirement. He pointed out the importance of what students, especially those in Special Education, are taught in high school, particularly if they don’t end up going to college.
“We need to make sure we’re teaching them what they need to function in society and live a good life,” Leitch said. “Part of that is not getting taken advantage of financially.”
However, Leitch was quick to add that new educational requirements do not alleviate parents from the responsibility to educate their own children financially.
“Parents can do this by having their children earn an allowance rather than them feeling it’s a constitutional guarantee they will get an allowance,” Leitch said. As children get older, parents should talk with them before they get a credit card and warn them about the damage a credit card can do.”
Although exact requirements for the class are currently unclear, Leitch and Dr. Jeffrey Guernsey, Associate Professor of Finance and Assistant Dean of the School of Business Administration, agreed students will benefit from learning about a variety of finance-related topics.
“If I were to craft a basic personal finance course for high schoolers, budgeting would certainly be important,” Guernsey said.
Guernsey also said he would be interested in addressing concepts such as credit card debt, balancing a checkbook and a checking account, and investing and compounding interest.
Leitch’s answers were similar, covering the three main areas of budgeting, borrowing, and investing. However, both he and Guernsey acknowledged learning about financial concepts does not necessarily mean that knowledge will be applied.
“Financial literacy is not sufficient in and of itself,” Guernsey said. “We need to be both financially literate and have the discipline to do something about it. We can know all sorts of things but still ignore them.”
According to Leitch, financial courses that allow students to work with actual money rather than just learning about concepts from a book are most impactful. Students in these classes have to develop a budget, setting aside certain amounts to save, spend, and invest – skills that are applicable to the real world.
“When you move out and Mom and Dad aren’t paying for room and board anymore, your money can’t all go towards eating out or buying things off of Amazon,” Leitch said. “All of a sudden, you actually have to spend money on surviving, and you have to pick and choose what you’re going to do with it.”
Guernsey also emphasized the importance of making financial courses applicable to the real world. Rather than having high schoolers plan for retirement or other events far in the future, Guernsey recommended taking advantage of tangible learning opportunities such as budgeting money earned at a high schooler’s part-time job.
“Learning isn’t just about what we learn, it’s about when we’re learning it, too,” Guernsey said. “If they can handle their money well early on when the dollars are small, later on when the dollars are bigger, it’s more likely to be a habit.”
Esther Fultz is a sophomore Social Work major and an Off-Campus and On-Campus writer for Cedars. She enjoys writing songs, spending time outdoors, drinking coffee, and hanging with friends.