Governor Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, during the 2018 election campaign. DeWine just signed off on mandatory personal finance education for high school students into state law.
Kirk Irwin | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine HCharged A bill would require all high school students in the state to take half credit, a self-contained personal finance course before graduation.
With this measure signed on October 28 by its Republican governor, Ohio is now the 10th state in the United States to require in-person financial education at the high school level. To date, it is also the largest, with legislation covering more than 600 school districts in Buckeye State.
“I’ve been a banker for 41 years and have seen the consequences of not teaching our kids financial literacy,” said Ohio Senator Steve Wilson, chair of the Ohio Financial Institutions and Technology Commission and the bill’s primary sponsor. “I wanted to do something about it.”
In the past two years, five states — Ohio, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Rhode Island — have passed legislation requiring students to take an entire semester in a high school personal finance course, doubling the total number of states with such a mandate.
Such a course is considered the gold standard by Next Gen Personal Finance, a national financial literacy organization. The Ohio bill will take effect in the 2024-25 school year and cover personal finance topics from basic budgeting to opening a bank account, managing student loan debt, and more.
said Brian Page, Senior Director of Partnerships and Advocacy at Next Gen Personal Finance who was previously an instructor at Reading High School in Reading, Ohio.
He added that high school students now need a personal finance education, with many of them already making decisions about money that will affect their future.
The Ohio bill also allows teachers who are not currently licensed to teach a class to obtain special certification for teaching a personal finance course. This will be paid for by the school district and reimbursed through the Financial Literacy Fund, which was created through legislation with money from local businesses such as banks and credit unions.
Including a financial literacy fund as part of the bill ensures that adding these courses won’t overburden teacher budgets, according to Wilson.
What do students say about delegation?
The students, who played a key role in persuading lawmakers to accept the bill, are pleased to see that personal finance education will be available to every child in Ohio from now on.
“The best part of the course was the enabling factor,” said Kristen Cain, now a sophomore at Ohio State University who studied personal finance in high school with Paige. She added that learning that she could invest, save and manage her money well at a young age was just as important as the hard skills covered in the course.
Kylie Schmidt, a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati who also took classes with Paige in high school, learned to save and invest for the future.
“There are a lot of things this law gives children, and I think security is one of the most important things,” she said.
Advice for other countries
The push for more state personal finance education states continues across the country. This year alone, 26 states and Washington, DC, introduced legislation around personal finance education in high schools, according to data from Next Gen Personal Finance.
For advocates in other states working on similar legislation, the group in Ohio has some advice.
The first is to find a legislator to support the bill, as Senator Wilson did in Ohio.
“We have had the pleasure of going through this process thanks to his leadership,” said Page of the Republican lawmaker.
Then, they must be prepared to contend with any opposition that is sure to come as they try to push the bill forward. This will require reframing the legislation and thinking outside the box.
“They had to get back to the drawing board and prepare to creatively solve problems over and over again,” said Yanelli Espinal, director of educational outreach at Next Gen Personal Finance.
Finally, people must be prepared to continue the path. The Ohio bill took about five years to pass.
“I will not give up,” Senator Wilson said. “It’s going to make an amazing difference in Ohio.”