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Florida Students Lack Financial Literacy, How More Education Could Mean More Success

Closeup of calculator, hand, pen and financial statement.
Dave Dugdale
Wikimedia Commons
American children are behind the globe when it comes to understanding money, investments, and credit.

On this Tuesday, May 11, episode of Sundial:

Students in Florida may be missing out on critical financial lessons. Credit scores, car loans, and compound interest — it’s all stuff we need to know.

But public education has fallen short on making financial literacy accessible and effective.

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In 2019, state lawmakers turned financial literacy into an elective. That means many children and parents could choose not to take the course.

Florida is not unique in this. The U.S. ranked 14th behind other industrialized nations when it comes to financial literacy, according to the Standard & Poor’s Global Financial Literacy Survey.

We gathered a panel of financial educators to talk about how money management should be taught.

Suzanne Costanza is the executive director of the Florida Council on Economic Education. Nan Morrison is the president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education. And Aaron Standish is the financial literacy coordinator for K-12 in the Palm Beach County School District.

This excerpt of the conversation has been edited for clarity.

05-11-2021 SUNDIAL SEG B Financial Literacy.mp3

WLRN: Is there proof that kids who learn financial literacy are better prepared to take on credit cards, loans or buy a home one day?

MORRISON: There's been some great research in the last several years. In fact, one piece of research compared two states side by side — one where there was financial education, one when there wasn't. They found that kids who received the education were getting out of college and their credit scores were higher and their loan default rates were lower. It also has an even outsized impact on kids from low and moderate-income areas, who very often don't have parents who speak the language of money for a whole variety of reasons. Those kids really benefit.

And in our survey of the states, we found that when those kids do get more access to this education actually get a better deal when they're financing college. They end up with more scholarships and more cost-effective loans. There's a real equity issue in personal finance as well, not just in the immediate moment, but over time.

Why has this been pushed aside and not been made more important?

COSTANZA: It's a great combination of multiple factors. Specifically, in 2019, there was a lot of pushback from parent organizations, whose students were taking electives and they were worried that by pulling an elective from these students — in this case, it was band — by pulling an option for an additional band credit, their children would no longer be competitive at getting scholarships for college. That, of course, made everyone very nervous. We don't want students to be at a disadvantage in Florida because they chose one elective over another. And it really concerned a lot of lawmakers.

Every year there's a little bit of a different reason behind why things happen the way they happen. But ultimately, that was the final cause for why we ended up with an elective rather than a mandate. I think one key aspect ... to remember is that not every student will be headed off to college after high school. And we have to make sure that all students prepare for whatever their future is. And we know that no matter what the future brings, it will involve money and it will involve handling finance.

In Palm Beach County, between parents and students how many of them are asking for more financial education?

STANDISH: We hear that quite often. What we find is that this is one of the few courses that students will go home and talk to their parents about. They will go home and ask questions and they'll go home and actually teach their parents possibly something about the financial industry that their parents didn't know.

And that's one of the coolest things we found with this course. At elementary we do an experiential program called My Classroom Economy, which we did a big national study with, and one of the things that showed as a result of that study was that the students who were involved in the program, went home and talked to their parents more often than those who weren’t involved in the program. So this can be sort of that leaping off point for students and parents to open up those conversations at the dinner table.

Also on today’s episode of Sundial:

Face Mask Enforcement

Florida still has a ways to go in its fight against the coronavirus. The latest vaccination numbers show 41% of residents have gotten at least one shot.

But the tools local governments use to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like mask enforcement, social distancing, curfews and fines are no longer available.

Gov. Ron DeSantis passed an executive order last week banning local COVID regulations. Monroe County in the Florida Keys followed the governor’s order and dropped all local rules.

We heard from WLRN’s Monroe County reporter Nancy Klingener and Key West Mayor Teri Johnston.

Face Mask Enforcement
A KN95 mask and a surgical mask.

University Of Miami’s New Indigenous Studies Program

Some faculty at the University of Miami responded to last summer's reckoning over racial injustice by proposing a new program in Native American and Global Indigenous Studies. The program launched its first courses this spring semester.

Native Americans are a tiny minority on the university’s campus and one Cherokee graduate student is on her own journey to educate her peers. Read the full story here.

University of Miami’s New Indigenous Studies Program
Kelsey Jackson, a graduate student at the University of Miami, shows off her 'Canes pride on the top of Waterrock Knob mountain in her home state of North Carolina. An enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Jackson is a member of a tiny minority at UM.

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Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.