COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – To graduate high school, students probably had to learn the Pythagorean Theorem, memorize the three branches of government and their functions, and read a little Shakespeare.
But in the future, South Carolina students will also need to learn skills like managing credit cards and filing taxes to get their diplomas.
This upcoming requirement to take a personal finance course comes after a multi-year, bipartisan push at the State House to make sure South Carolina students are financially literate and prepared for life after high school.
“I think it’s so important to try to teach some of these fundamental skills to these kids as soon as they can, so they just get off on the right foot,” Bill Joy said.
Joy teaches a personal finance class at Lucy Beckham High School in Mount Pleasant, where students have to take the course in their sophomore year.
His lessons cover units on budgeting, checking, savings, and more.
“We actually teach kids how to prepare taxes, and actually some of those kids have gone on to prepare taxes for their parents. So, these are the type of sort of life skills that I think are really valuable, ”Joy said.
Soon, all South Carolina high schoolers will have to learn these skills to graduate.
A law written into the current state budget directs the South Carolina Department of Education to develop the regulations for a required high school course in personal finance by the end of September, to be approved by the State Board of Education.
“We all understand our students need this. They need the foundation and the background knowledge and the schema and the financial literacy, rather than finding it out when it’s too late, ”David Mathis, the deputy superintendent for SCDE’s Division of College and Career Readiness, said.
Those regulations include how the half-credit requirement will fit in with the 24 credits needed to graduate and which graduating class will be the first that will have to pass the course to earn their diplomas.
Mathis said they want to be able to offer different options for students to complete this requirement, which could include taking the course virtually, as an elective, or as part of their career and technology education requirement.
The new personal finance requirement will not be in place for the upcoming school year, as Mathis said it could take around a year just to develop the course standards.
“Once that is done, we have to build the coursework around that. We have to secure materials and resources that districts can choose from, ”Mathis said.
The Department of Education will also have to work in time for professional development and to train teachers on the new course.
But at least one teacher, Joy, said it’s worth it.
“Everybody living in the state, I really think it’s going to better prepare our kids to deal responsibly with money,” Joy said.
Personal finance is a required course to graduate high school in more than a dozen states, including most in the southeast.
Among neighboring states, North Carolina already has a personal finance requirement in place, while Georgia just passed a law this year adding it.
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