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State lawmakers consider mandated financial literacy courses in New York schools


New York state lawmakers are considering several bills this session that would mandate financial literacy classes across New York state public schools.

Many 16-year-olds in low-income communities are struggling with financially supporting their families. Ganesh Pandit, accounting professor at Adelphi University, said money management and savings is essential to their day-to-day lives.

“Just mandating it is not enough,” Pandit said. “We all have to realize that we have to take care of our own money management skills. We have to find ways to learn to manage our money.”

With more students learning more about their money via TikTok and other social media platforms, Pandit said everyone should think about financial well-being, just as much as physical well-being.

Currently 17 states require a stand-alone class on financial literacy for high school graduation. In New York, the topic is taught as part of an economics course, but advocates say the current structure does not go in-depth into how students can properly manage their money.

Tim Ranzetta, co-founder of Next Gen Personal Finance, said such a course develops students’ critical life skills and collaboration — from mathematics, to reading, to science, to psychology and history. Ranzetta said this will prepare students academically and provide them with the soft skills they need.

“It’s not only preparing students to be adults but also preparing them academically and how to think critically,” Ranzetta said.

Ranzetta said school juniors and seniors want this course because of their money-related issues, spanning from auto insurance to a part-time job. Young people often don’t know about credit scores, trades and basic money management. Ranzetta said it allows students to get a basic understanding that they are capable of navigating this new world.

Currently at least 21 state legislators have introduced more bills, increasing momentum for the change. Ranzetta is concerned that “New York’s going to get left behind.”

Although there is not a mandated course in most schools, Pandit said there are ways for students to learn more about how to manage their money. Students can read about money management on the internet by self-studying. Students can also speak to family members, friends and teachers.

Jonathan Jacobson, member of New York State Assembly for the 104th District, is currently sponsoring a bill that requires all seniors to take a financial literacy course before graduation.

“It's just as important for everybody, whether they go to college or not. They should have some basic understanding on how our financial world operates because they're going to be in it,” Jacobson said. “And it’s important that they know how money operates and what their responsibilities will be when they go into the world.

Ranzetta said the Board of Regents has been on a tour listening to students, teachers, parents and administrators. He said students have a voice in making a financial literacy course mandatory. Some have had op-eds published in news publications, and they have been outspoken in school board meetings.

Many students are the first in their family to go to college, and Ranzetta said there is a ripple effect with investments and budgets.

The more awareness there is for a financial literacy course, the more that mandating such a course will grow and as a result, help make it a part of students’ everyday lives.

While all communities are deeply affected by this, Pandit said students should spend and save more wisely so they can be better equipped to handle resources.

“Financial education is really aspirational and gives students the opportunity to think beyond their current situation,” Ranzetta said.

Clare Gehlich is a former news intern at WSHU.