FAIR HAVEN — In addition to biology and language arts, students are still learning how to handle their cash — 12 schools in Vermont received praise for requiring their students to take a semester of financial planning courses to better prepare them for the future.
And Fair Haven Union High School was one of them — Christian Sherrill, director of business development and teacher advocacy for the California-based Next Gen Personal Finance group, said they awarded FHUHS as one of the 887 Gold Standard Schools for 2019.
“Financial Literacy was introduced as a graduation requirement at Fair Haven Union High school 10 years ago,” said Kim Ransom, personal finance and consumer education instructor at FHUHS. “We currently have 60 students enrolled ... juniors and seniors.”
Ransom said, “Our students are required (to take the course for) a half a credit towards their graduation requirement.”
Ransom said her students learn how to create their own digital portfolio for their professional careers, learn interview skills and networking, saving and checking accounts, online banking, budgeting, purchasing cars and homes and the subsequent mortgages, how to take out student loans, investing and how to manage their credit.
“Our students love it, too,” Ransom said. “They always say, “This is something I will use right out of high school, no matter what I choose. ... NGPF is one of the best curriculums we have found because we allow the students to experience real-life situations and interactive online learning as well as direct classroom instruction.”
Superintendent Brook Olsen-Farrell said, “Personal finance can be difficult for adults to navigate, especially given the increasing complexity of our financial system.” She said, “It is important for students to build strong financial management skills at a young age.”
After visiting more than 11,000 school websites, 12 schools in Vermont were awarded the Bronze Standard if they offer personal finance as a part of another course, such as economics or mathematics.
Silver medals were awarded to 21 Vermont schools for teaching personal finance as its own elective course.
But if they require students to dedicate an entire semester the way Fair Haven does, they get the gold.
“This is the second year we’re awarding schools,” Sherrill said. “It stemmed from research we conducted in 2017 in financial education courses being offered to students.”
Research conducted by the National Endowment for Financial Education shows students in states where financial education is a requirement outperformed their peers in terms of financial behaviors in college and in their professional lives.
Those students showed higher incidences of applying for financial aid, lower incidences of credit card debt and a higher incidence of federally subsidized student loans, Sherrill said.
“(It’s been proved) to help students with their long-term financial planning,” Sherrill said. “If you want kids to be financially capable, don’t wait for them to make mistakes in the real world. It’s an investment in the prevention of financial illiteracy and incapability.”
Sherrill said the co-founder of NGPF, Tim Ramzetta, was an entrepreneur throughout his career and became a volunteer financial planning instructor for east-side college prep in Palo Alto, California, where he found teaching financial responsibility not only helped students, but attracted students from other courses, and even got their parents involved.
He found that teaching financial responsibility isn’t the easiest thing in the world, Sherrill said.
“It was a huge realization for him,” Sherrill said. “It’s really hard to teach, teachers spending a ton of time preparing.”
So Ramzetta made it his mission to make things easier for teachers, hosting personal finance courses and developing initiatives for teachers to embrace teaching financial management and fiscal responsibility.
The awards were developed first for the 2017-18 school year, and Sherrill said 600 schools qualified, at that time, for the gold standard.
In one year, that number expanded by more than 47 percent — there are now 887 schools who qualify for the NGPF gold standard, and more than 15,000 teachers with accounts on their website using teaching resources, Sherrill said.
“We just set a goal that by 2030, that 100 percent of U.S. high schools will be at the gold standard,” Sherrill said. “Seventy-five percent of Vermont’s schools are teaching financials in some capacity.”