Many Capital Region schools offer some sort of class meant to teach students about personal finance, but it’s unclear as to how many local graduating seniors are actually utilizing those classes.
As per New York state law, every student must complete a three-quarter unit home and career skills course by grade eight, although most schools simply construct the course to count for one whole credit as opposed to the three quarters.
Financial management is one of the topics covered in that course, according to the New York State Education Department Home and Career skills curriculum. These classes must be taught by a certified family and consumer sciences teacher.
However, after middle school, these classes become optional, and there is no state mandate that says high schoolers have to take a personal finance class to graduate.
At Shaker High School, only 35 percent of students graduate having taken the financial management course the school offers, according to technology teacher Eric Phillips. The class goes over everything from making major purchases to credit and banking and budgeting.
This class falls under the umbrella of the highschool business department, something that, Phillips said, some highschools do not have due to budget constraints.
“In school districts, we’re in an ‘or’ situation now,” Phillips said, which means that schools now often have to pick between offering one class or the other, but not both. He said that North Colonie is one of the few schools that has been able to keep such classes included in the curriculum.
Phillips also said the low amount of students taking the class could be a result of high schoolers being very track oriented, preferring to focus on Advanced Placement classes and other resume building activities such as sports and theater, which leaves little time for other electives.
Sometimes, Phillips said, parents don’t think their children need personal finance classes.
At Vooreheesville High School, the half year personal finance course is a graduation requirement. The class has been a requirement for the past five years, according to high school business teacher Heather Garvey.
“It was important to me that this course be required because financial education is very important,” Garvey told Spotlight News. Topics covered in Garvey’s course include controlling personal cash flow, establishing and using credit wisely, earning power, investing, financial services and insurance.
“Every student will have an income at some point and they need to know how to make their money work for them. I teach them how to live within their means. I want them to think about retirement now. The administration and the board of education values this course and I know that every student will benefit from this course,” she said.
Bethlehem Central High School offers Career & Financial Management classes, Financial Accounting, and Independent Living, according to school spokeperson Sabre Sarnataro. Financial literacy is also covered at Bethlehem Central Middle School in the Family and Consumer Science classes.
Bethlehem also provides a 5-week junior achievement program at the elementary level that includes financial literacy.
South Colonie High School, Guilderland High School, and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School did not return requests for comment on their financial literacy programs. However, Guilderland High School does have a business department within the high school that features classes such as Economics and Personal Finance and Money Skills for Life.
The economics course studies the fundamentals of economics which, theoretically, prepapres students for making their own economic decisions in the future, according to the department website. This class fulfills the economics requirement that students need to graduate.
The Money Skills class teaches students about large financial decisions such as taking out student loans. According to the website, it’s also a goal oriented class. The course description says, “Students will create job/career based personal household budgets utilizing checking and saving accounts,
increase understanding of investing and retirement planning, gain knowledge in finance, debt and credit management, and evaluate and understand insurance and taxes.”
Like Guilderland, Ravena also offers students a business department, which hosts a career and financial management class. South Colonie High School has a few classes that include money management as well, such as Real World Mathematics and Career and Financial Management, according to the school’s high school curriculum course guide.
Data regarding how many graduating seniors take these classes at the three above schools was not provided.