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Arkansas Improves ‘Grade’ for Teaching Financial Literacy

The state of Arkansas now mandates that high school students must pass a Financial Literacy course in order to graduate. (Hero/GettyImages)
The state of Arkansas now mandates that high school students must pass a Financial Literacy course in order to graduate. (Hero/GettyImages)
December 15, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new report shows that Arkansas is making significant progress in teaching high school students the life skills they will need to handle money.

According to a new study by the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College, the Natural State has gone from one of the worst in the country for financial-literacy instruction to among the top states.

John Pelletier, director of the Center in Burlington, Vt., points out that knowing how to handle money can serve people well throughout their lives, and he says it's important to learn those skills early.

"They're asked about things that they wish they had been taught when they were in high school," he says. "Many of them talk about personal finance. I think people regret this much younger than in their 40s or 50s. It can be a regret in their 30s because we all make financial decisions that impact us."

The new study, which ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia with letter grades, gave Arkansas a B, reflecting improvements made in its curriculum standards. In the Center's 2013 rankings, Arkansas schools received an F. Earlier this year, state lawmakers ordered Arkansas schools to make financial literacy a required class for graduation.

To succeed in today's world, Pelletier says students need a broad-based knowledge of how our economy works.

"Probably the biggest thing they've got to know is how credit scores work, because all credit - whether it be a mortgage, automobile loan, credit card - is tied to that magical number that nobody knows what it is that is calculated by these credit bureaus," he explains.

He says one of the first decisions facing many high school students when they graduate is how to pay for college.

"For many people, the second largest personal financial transaction they're going to make is going to college, second only to a mortgage," he adds. "Yet we are pushing young people with not even fully develop brains yet at the age of 18 into these really big decisions."

The Center for Financial Literacy is a partnership among financial institutions, nonprofits and government agencies. It promotes and develops financial literacy programs for K-12 and college students, teachers and adults.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR