Personal finance course will be required in future for SC students to graduate from high school

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) — To graduate from high school, students likely needed to learn the Pythagorean theorem, memorize the three branches of government and their functions, and read some Shakespeare.

But in the future, students in South Carolina will also need to learn skills like managing credit cards and filing taxes to graduate.

This next requirement to take a personal finance course follows a years-long bipartisan push at State House to ensure South Carolina students are financially savvy and prepared for life after high school.

“I think it’s so important to try to teach some of these foundational skills to these kids as soon as they can, so they get off to a good start,” Bill Joy said.

Joy teaches a personal finance course at Lucy Beckham High School in Mount Pleasant, where students must take the course in their second year.

Her lessons cover units on budgeting, auditing, saving, and more.

“We actually teach the kids how to prepare their taxes, and in fact some of those kids have gone on to prepare taxes for their parents. So those are the kind of life skills that I think are really valuable,” Joy said.

Soon, all high school students in South Carolina will need to learn these skills to graduate.

A law in the current state budget directs the South Carolina Department of Education to develop regulations for a mandatory high school course in personal finance by the end of September, which will be approved by the State Board of Education.

“We all understand that our students need it. They need the foundation and the basic knowledge and the schema and the financial literacy, rather than finding out when it’s too late,” said David Mathis, assistant superintendent of the College Readiness Division and to SCDE’s career.

These regulations specify how the half-credit requirement will fit into the 24 credits needed to graduate and which class will be the first to pass the course to graduate.

Mathis said they want to be able to offer different options for students to complete this requirement, which could include taking the course virtually, as an option or as part of their career and technology training requirement.

The new personal finance requirement will not be in place for the next school year as Mathis said it could take around a year just to develop course standards.

“Once that’s done, we have to build the course around that. We need to secure materials and resources that districts can choose from,” Mathis said.

The Department of Education will also need to work in time for professional development and to train teachers on the new course.

But at least one teacher, Joy, said it was worth it.

“Everyone living in the state, I really think this is going to better prepare our kids to handle money responsibly,” Joy said.

Personal finance is a required course for graduating from high school in more than a dozen states, most of them in the Southeast.

Among neighboring states, North Carolina already has a personal finance requirement in place, while Georgia just passed legislation this year adding it.

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Denise W. Whigham