R.I. students make case for high school fin. lit. classes

December 9, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (12/10/14)--Thanks to a group of high school students who believed the financial education requirements at their school were lacking, Rhode Island recently adopted its first-ever set of financial literacy standards.

The process began when the students reached out to state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist via Twitter about the issue, and culminated last week at Rhode Island College (RIC) at a statewide financial capability conference, which was in part sponsored by two credit unions: Navigant CU, Smithfield, with $1.4 billion in assets, and Pawtucket (R.I.) CU, with $1.6 billion in assets (Providence Journal Dec. 7).

Credit unions have been at the forefront of advocating for more financial literacy in the classroom nationwide, with many leagues lobbying at their state capitals for higher requirements.

In the beginning, the students in Rhode Island had argued that the financial literacy courses they had taken at their school had been more meaningful to them than some of their math classes. The group also argued that financial literacy should be a part of all school districts' graduation requirements because of how important the knowledge is for college students, according to the Providence Journal.

Eight months after the initial contact, the Rhode Island Board of Education adopted a series of national standards that have been created by the Council for Economic Education.

At Saturday's daylong financial capability conference, which was organized by the R.I. Jump$tart Coalition and the R.I. Council for Economic Education, and sponsored by Fidelity Investments, the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority, RIC and the two credit unions, the more than 200 educators in attendance participated in workshops on saving for college, borrowing, credit scores, budgeting and spending.

Gist also led a panel discussion that featured more than a dozen students from across Rhode Island about why financial literacy matters.

"Many parents aren't comfortable making these decisions for themselves so they are less confident about educating their children," said Stuart Hallagan, a sophomore from East Greenwich (Providence Journal).

"Seeing what I wanted to do for a career and finding out how much it would cost in real life was shocking," added Chris Edgerley, from Chariho.

Students also talked about the ways they had learned about savings, debt management and investment, and about how the financial literacy courses they had taken helped prepare them for college and the associated costs, according to the Providence Journal.