Making the grade

According to a study performed by the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy, the following states were rated based on their ability to inform students on how to be financially stable.

Tennessee A

Georgia A

South Carolina B

North Carolina B

Florida D

Source: The Center for Financial Literacy

South Carolina’s efforts to teach students about financial responsibility have helped the state make the grade according to a nationwide study.

The study, done by the Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy, gave S.C. a B for the state’s efforts to promote financial literacy. The study said “to avoid another financial crisis in the future and to improve personal finance outcomes for American citizens, our nation must be educated in personal finance.”

Teresa Crumley, a government and economics teacher at Berkeley Middle College, said educating students about good financial habits is an important part of preparing them for the real world.

“I’m trying to give them those real life experiences,” she said.

Crumley said she devotes an entire unit in her economics course to personal financial planning. She has students simulate life based off the average annual salary of a profession they choose, usually influenced by their real life goals. She teaches her students about the differences between debit and credit, savings and investments and said she puts a special emphasis on the budgeting process.

“They need to know how much is coming in and how much is going out.”

Crumley’s students also handle expenses that plague many in the real world, including car payments, student loan debt and rent or mortgage costs. She also has the students save two to 10 percent of their money for entertainment or emergencies.

She said that the students complain about how much work goes into the project but are thankful for what they learned once the project is over. Parents sometimes learn a thing or two also, according to Crumley.

The study gave all 50 states a grade based on the states’ efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates.

A’s went to states that offered a standalone personal finance course and gave students a standardized assessment of what they had learned. Tennessee and Georgia were two of the seven states that received A’s.

The 13 states that received B’s – including both Carolinas – mandated personal financial education as part of another course but required no standard assessment of those skills.

Jay Ragley, a spokesman for the state department of education, said that the state doesn’t mandate a specific curriculum for school districts to use but does provide districts with resources to teach financial literacy.

“It’s an important life skill that educators think students should have before leaving high school,” said Ragley.

He said that classes based on finance and business are becoming more popular, but aren’t mandated by the state for graduation. It is up to individual school districts whether to offer those courses.

Ragley said the state doesn’t require a standalone personal finance course because “students have enough hurdles before getting their diploma.”

Kelly Wulf, director of special education for Berkeley County said that personal finance also has a place in special education classrooms. She said students are taught basic math skills, then applying those skills to money.

“We teach math concepts centered around finance, skills these students can use outside of the classroom” she said.

Financial responsibility is a key to special education efforts, which often focus on helping the students prepare to live independently.

The study cited statistics from the 2013 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey, saying that 26 percent of people surveyed don’t pay their bills on time and that 31 percent of those surveyed have no savings for the future. Chad Vail is the work-based learning partnership coordinator with the Charleston County school district. Before his job with Charleston County schools, he worked with Junior Achievement, an organization that works with young people to help them become financially responsible adults. Vail said that making sure young people are taught about financial responsibility is key to economic success.

“Employers want well-rounded, well-prepared employees,” he said. “We want to make sure kids are ready to make wise decisions and be good employees.”