COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – To graduate from high school, students likely 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 earn their diplomas.
This upcoming requirement to take a personal finance course follows a multi-year, bipartisan push at the State House to ensure students in South Carolina are financially literate and prepared for life after high school.
“I think it’s so important to teach these kids some of these basic skills as soon as possible so they can just get off on the right foot,” said Bill Joy.
Joy teaches a personal finance class at Lucy Beckham High School in Mount Pleasant, where students are required to take the course in their second year.
Its lessons include units on budgeting, control, savings and more.
“We actually teach children how to prepare taxes, and in fact some of these children have prepared taxes for their parents. So those are the kind of life skills that I think are really valuable,” Joy said.
Soon, all high schoolers in South Carolina will need to learn these skills to graduate.
A law included in the current state budget directs the South Carolina Department of Education to develop regulations for a mandatory high school personal finance course by the end of September, which must be approved by the state board of education.
“We all understand that our students need this. They need the fundamentals and the background and the scheme and the financial literacy rather than figuring it out when it’s too late,” said David Mathis, SCDE Assistant Superintendent for College and Vocational Readiness.
These regulations include how the half-credit requirement aligns with the 24 credits required for graduation, and which graduating class must pass the course first to earn their diplomas.
Mathis said they want to be able to offer students a variety of options to meet this requirement, including taking the course virtually, as an elective, or as part of their career and technology education requirement.
The new personal finance requirement will not apply for the upcoming school year, as Mathis said it could take about a year just to develop the course standards.
“Once that’s done, we need to build the coursework around that. We need to secure materials and resources for districts to choose from,” Mathis said.
The Ministry of Education must also work on professional development in good time and train the teachers for the new course.
But at least one teacher, Joy, said it was worth it.
“Anyone who lives in this state, I truly believe it will better prepare our children to be responsible stewards of money,” Joy said.
Personal finance is a required major 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, while Georgia just this year passed legislation adding it.
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