SYRACUSE — How do you buy a car and what do you look for when doing so? How do you balance a checking account regularly? Why is a credit score important and how do you fix a poor score?
These are all basic financial concepts high school students need to learn regardless of which career path they choose after graduation. And apparently administrators at Wawasee High School felt it is important enough to learn so a personal finance class is now a requirement for graduation.
During a special school board meeting in late March, the board approved making personal finance a graduation requirement. It replaces the digital applications class, which had been a requirement but it was felt students already know the material by the time they get to high school. Digital apps will still be offered as an elective class.
Personal finance, however, is something students usually only have a limited knowledge of, noted Andy Kryder, Wawasee Business Department teacher, and Vince Beasley, assistant principal at the high school. Students get exposure to some financial concepts through the Junior Achievement Biz Town program in middle school, but not necessarily on a broad level.
Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, all sophomores will be required to take personal finance, a 12-week, one trimester class. Upon completion of the course, they will get one credit. Those who choose to do so can then take other finance classes such as banking and investing, among others, as part of a graduation pathway, but those classes will not be a requirement for everyone to take in order to graduate.
Beasley said the intent is to go a lot deeper into personal finance concepts. A total of 18 modules will be covered, with Kryder noting about three days will be spent on each topic. The modules include such real life concepts as shopping, getting a credit card, paying taxes, using online banking, investing for retirement, buying a home, insurance, buying a car and others.
The class will be done via online simulation and Kryder will be able to monitor the progress of students. Guest speakers will be brought in also so “students can get an idea of who they can go to locally,” if they have questions.
Sophomores would more likely be interested in buying a car because they are getting a driver’s license. “It is good to discuss (these topics) at this age,” he said.
In other financial classes he teaches, Kryder said it is not uncommon for students to be surprised at the number of people who, for example, are carrying a large amount of credit debt or who have poor credit ratings. “If the parents are doing this (carrying a lot of credit debt), then that is probably what the student will end up doing,” he said. “They will think that is normal.”
Teaching these financial concepts will hopefully lay a good foundation. “It will be a good basis to move forward in life,” Beasley noted.