There is an increasing pressure for students to pursue personal financial education in high school.

But, according to US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, it may not be soon enough.

“When I talk to students now, they talk about the need to learn financial literacy in a practical sense – how to look at debt and how to plan for a financially secure future,” Cardona told CNBC’s Sharon Epperson in an interview.

While states and local councils – not the federal Department of Education – control the curriculum, the group still tries to promote financial literacy education at an early level, Cardona said.

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“We can’t wait to have a personal finance class in high school,” he said. “We need to infuse it more naturally so that by the time they get to high school, they have a better understanding of it.”

Currently, a personal finance education course is a high school requirement in 21 states, according to data from Next Gen Personal Finance. In 24 states, high schools are required to offer personal finance education, but students are not required to take it.

Fill gaps

At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, schools have an opportunity to rethink the way they approach teaching students as they welcome them to classrooms in person, according to Cardona.

“I can’t think of a better time than now when we’re as close to the reset button in education as we’ve ever been,” Cardona said, adding that there is also an opportunity to bridge the gap. gaps in success often observed among students. of color, many of whom come from families hardest hit by the pandemic.

“I expect that when the schools reopen, we will aggressively tackle the loss of teaching and the time our students have suffered,” Cardona said. This includes providing adequate support to students and families, as well as rethinking the curriculum.

What we do is seek out state-level policies that promote and uplift financial literacy at a younger age.

Miguel Cardona

US Secretary of Education

Bringing better personal finance education into classrooms as soon as possible makes a lot of sense as the United States continues to grapple with the pandemic, which has impacted money for many.

“When we talk about financial literacy planning, we have to be very intentional about it,” Cardona said. This includes making sure that students can see themselves in the program so that they feel connected to the schools.

“If our students are seen and valued, they will be successful,” he said.

It also means providing resources in other languages, especially Spanish, so parents and students can learn about personal finances. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States after English, and more than 40 million people in the country are native speakers.

“Schools that welcome students whose families are unilingual Spanish speakers must make resources available to these families in a language we understand,” he said. “We all benefit.”

Go forward

Miguel Cardona, US Secretary of Education, at the Queen Theater on December 23, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joshua Roberts | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Of course, because the Department of Education does not establish curricula across the country, its influence on how individual schools approach personal finance education is somewhat limited.

Still, Cardona is doing what it can to encourage states and districts to include better financial literacy courses and programs for students.

“What we do is elevate best practices,” Cardona said. “What we’re doing is researching state-level policies that promote and uplift financial literacy at a younger age.”

In addition, Cardona highlighted several provisions of the US bailout and President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better initiative that will bring even more support to schools and teachers across the country.

Ultimately, multiple levels of government will need to work together to ensure that all students have personal finance training in their high schools, colleges, and even elementary schools.

“I think the time has come for us to have a local, state and federal approach working in unison,” Cardona said.

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