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States with the Worst Financial Literacy Education


The financial crisis exposed the country's low level of financial literacy and not much has changed in the last six years. How well does your state teach financial literacy to its citizens?

The financial crisis exposed the country’s low level of financial literacy and not much has changed in the last six years, according to a new report.

Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy graded all 50 states on their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates. Just 20 states (40% of the country) received either an A or a B.

“The states that flunked have done very little to ensure that personal finance topics are taught in their schools,” according to the Champlain grading system.

Champlain awarded grades based on reports from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the JumpStart Coalition on Personal Financial Literacy and the Council for Economic Education’s (CEE) 2011 Survey of the States.

Just seven states received an A: Georgia, Idaho Louisiana, Missouri, Utah, Tennessee and Virginia.

A (seven states)

All states that received an A have personal finance topics in their instructional guidelines that local school districts required to implement. To graduate high school, it is required that students take financial literacy instruction either as a standalone course or as part of another course.

B (13 states)

Generally, these states have personal finance topics in their guidelines that local school districts have to implement. Often personal finance is embedded in civics, economics, family and consumer science, business or math courses.

C (eight states)

While these states require personal finance courses and topics or offered and taught, it is up to local school boards to determine how to integrate these topics. Furthermore, it was not clear how the state determines if the requirements are met, according to Champlain.

D (11 states)

Although personal finance topics are included in instructional guidelines and school districts have to implement them, the topics do not need to be in any course necessary for graduation. Implementation is left to the districts and it isn’t clear how the states ensure the topics are taught.

F (11 states)

Some of the failing states don’t include personal finance in their educational states or they include financial topics in guidelines but do not require that the local school districts actually teach them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the states that received the worst grades from Champlain are also among the least financially literate, according to a survey by FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

The following states received an F for the financial literacy education they provide to their high school students.

(In alphabetical order)


Downtown Birmingham seen from Red Mountain. Photo by Andre Nattta.

In 2010 Alabama passed a law “urging” that personal finance be incorporated into the curriculum for high school seniors. However, the state does not require that local school districts teach the personal finance topics that are included in the state’s educational guidelines.


Mt. McKinley. Photo by Nic McPhee.

Alaska has no personal finance topics in the state’s educational standard. While personal finance could be taught as an elective, there is no personal finance requirement.


Little Rock

While the state’s educational guidelines include personal finance topics, they are not required to be taught. However, NCLS reported that Arkansas passed a law in 2002 that provides assistance to school districts that want offer personal finance.



Although state legislature has attempted to do something about the state’s poor financial literacy education, it has been stymied. From 2006 to 2010, the governor vetoed six financial literacy bills. In 2011 the state established a fund for private donations that could be used to promote financial literacy in the state.


Hartford. Photo by Daniel Morrison.

The state does not require that local school districts actually teach the personal finance topics included in the state’s educational guidelines. Connecticut legislators introduced seven bills in the last six years in an attempt to bring financial literacy to schools, but the attempts all failed. According to NCLS, the state did pass a law in 2009 that allows banks to open branches in schools so students can learn about saving money.


Wilmington. Photo by Tim Kiser.

Although the state legislature passed a resolution making April financial literacy month, in 14 years only one bill has been introduced to require personal finance education in the school system. The personal finance topics included in the state’s educational guidelines are not required to be taught.


Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu.

Personal finance may be taught as an elective at certain schools, but there is no personal finance requirement. In 2010, though, the state’s legislature created the Financial Literacy Education and Asset Building Task Force, which has made a variety of recommendations.


Boston. Copyright Bastos —

The state’s education guidelines do include personal finance topics but the local school districts are not required to teach them. More than 20 bills requiring financial literacy to be taught at schools were introduced since 2005, but none have found success.


Downtown Omaha from Heartland of America Park. Photo by Raymand Bucko, SJ | Flickr.

Although the state received an F this year, that might not be the case for long. Just last year Nebraska created a financial literacy fund to provide assistance to nonprofit entities that offer financial literacy programs to K-12 students. The fund is administered by the University of Nebraska. However, there is no personal finance requirement in local school districts.

Rhode Island


The state’s educational standards do not even include any personal finance topics. However, the state’s legislature has created a commission on personal finance and requested the Department of Education create a task force on youth financial literacy.



Personal finance topics are in the state’s education guidelines, but they are not required to be taught. A Financial Literacy Public-Private Partnership was created in 2004 for the purpose of promoting personal finance education in the state’s schools. The group’s name has since changed and since 2007 its duties expanded to include bringing personal finance education to all citizens of Washington state.

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