High school students must be taught basic finances

America’s youth is financially illiterate.

An April 2013 study conducted by EverFi, Inc., a technology company focused on educating children, revealed that more than 25 percent of 13–18-year-old high school students may not have the skills to manage basic personal finances upon graduation.

Unfortunately, many students graduate high school without knowing how to file their taxes, balance a check book, or properly manage a credit card.

According to the study, students believed that a good credit score was over 500, and one-third of respondents answered that a good credit score was 300 or less. More shockingly, 41 percent of students believed that they are either entitled to receive their paid taxes back after filing federal income tax returns, or that they simply do not need to pay income taxes at all.

It is critical that American high school students receive instruction on basic personal finances, especially in a difficult economic climate, and following a recession caused in part by people accepting loans they could not afford or understand. High schools should implement a basic personal finances course, which would teach these skills to high school students.

There appears to be demand from students to receive this kind of instruction. According to the same EverFi, Inc. study, 83 percent of surveyed students believed that personal finance causes should be mandatory in schools.

A recent article published by PBS NewsHour suggests that teaching financial values to young children may be effective in combating the problem of financially illiterate students, detailing how parents should have their children earn and manage allowances. Additionally, children’s television programs such as Sesame Street are beginning to incorporate the value of saving and properly managing money into its educational content. Instilling these financial values at a young age forms critical building blocks for high school financial programs and other efforts to be successful. It is never too early to learn the value of financial responsibility.

Through Carnegie Mellon’s chapter of MoneyThink, a national organization devoted to teaching youth financial skills, university students are engaging high school students to educate them. The chapter mentors high schools students in an attempt to restore economic health in the community. The Carnegie Mellon MoneyThink chapter’s initiatives are an admirable first step to the goal of educating high school students to be financially literate.

All high school students must graduate with basic financial skills. High schools, as well as other community organizations, should make strides to ensure that students graduate with at least the ability to balance a personal checkbook and file taxes.