U study shows finance classes help high schoolers

Anna Weggel

High school students might not rely only on parental advice and their wits to educate themselves about financial planning these days.

University researchers have found that adolescents in a national money management program are learning new ways to manage their money.

The High School Financial Planning Program, which the National Endowment for Financial Education sponsored, has been educating high school students about money management and financial behavior around the United States since 1984.

Last week, the endowment released a study that University researchers conducted. It assessed the value and impact of the program.

Sharon Danes, family social science professor and member of the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, led the evaluation based on student and teacher responses.

Danes said teachers give lessons about careers, budgets, savings, investments, credit and insurance.

In her evaluation, Danes assessed how students managed their money and how they spent it before, immediately and three months after the program.

Danes said the program affected behavior, increased financial decision-making skills and helped students improve in many different areas.

“If people have more confidence, then they’ll continue to do the behaviors and apply the knowledge that they learned,” she said.

Danes said she hopes more high schools will teach personal finance.

“I think teaching personal finance in the high schools is very important, because in our education system, we prepare students for obtaining an income, but we don’t spend a lot of time helping them understand what is necessary to manage that income effectively and efficiently,” Danes said.

Nan Mead, communications director for the endowment, said approximately 23,850 high schools participate in the program around the United States.

“The whole basis was to reach young people at a time when they’re forming habits that carry over into adulthood, so they could avoid many problems their parents face,” she said.

Mead said that although the program’s results were positive, there is still more work to be done.

“There is always room for improvement as kids become more sophisticated and as discretionary buying power increases,” she said. “We feel that (students) are in need of increasingly complex financial information.”

Mead said the program reaches approximately 600,000 students a year, but she would like to reach more.

Kristina Wright, assistant vice president of communications at the Minnesota Credit Union Network and member of the Minnesota Family Involvement Council, informs credit unions about how to get involved with the program.

“The network and the family involvement council feel strongly about the importance of educating young people about their financial well-being,” she said. “It just makes for better consumers.”

Wright said credit unions have had a tradition of being very involved in the community.

“A lot of people think that financial education is something that should be taught at home; statistics show this isn’t happening,” Wright said. “The best place for students to learn about financial education is at school.”