Michigan Makes Financial Literacy A Requirement For Graduation

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | 1 week ago

High school students in Michigan will join youths in 13 other states by taking a required financial literacy class in order to graduate. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 5190 on Thursday. This updates state education standards to better prepare young adults for the future. 

The new legislation instructs high school students to pass a ½ credit course centered on personal finance which offers financial literacy curriculum. In addition, 8th grade middle school students must pass a ½ credit economics class. Personal finance or financial literacy courses will fill this requirement. These changes will go into effect at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. 

This bipartisan issue has been a topic of discussion for some time now. Students, parents, educators, and lawmakers generally agree that students need to understand financial literacy concepts in order to properly manage their money once they reach adulthood and face economic decisions on their own. The Michigan bill was passed by the house last December, and the Senate passed it in May. Governor Whitmer praised the law and noted her full support of teaching students “ how to budget, save, and invest their money wisely.”

This is a growing trend across the nation. Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia have already existing requirements or recently passed legislation that will require financial literacy in the near future. Many other states are continuing to examine the benefits of requiring these courses for graduation. While the majority of people agree that it is a necessary subject, states like Kansas are having difficulty restructuring schools to shift course requirements without heightening the number of credits needed to receive a high school diploma. 

The Kansas State Board of Educators is facing a dilemma regarding graduation requirements connected to financial literacy courses. While they seek to add a mandatory  ½ credit course exploring the subject, making room for this essential class is putting art classes on the chopping block. Many students benefit from art classes and previous data has shown that art students score higher on SAT tests. Even so, a modern focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) lessons has already lessened art classes in some areas. 

In order to keep students engaged, but also offer them the knowledge they need to become successful adults, many educators are against adding more credit hour requirements for high school students to graduate, as they are already facing numerous pressures and have endured trying educational practices throughout the pandemic. Adding financial literacy classes may cause art requirements to be relegated to the elective portion of graduation credit hours. How students will respond to this is still unclear. What is known is that 1/3rd of high school students have no post-graduation plans. This presents a serious lack of direction which will take much effort to remedy and can be improved upon through courses that teach money management. 

Michigan’s new financial literacy law is seeking to prepare young students for their future. It is a measure that most people agree on and is expected to improve student success rates. How this will change the structure of class schedules is yet to be seen.