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News Features, Parkdale News

Financial literacy class hopes to decrease risk of debt in students

Around this time of year, Parkdale students are deciding on what classes they might want to take next year. Whether that would be Psychology or Team Sports, students are just looking for a class that best fits what they’re looking for. However students often overlook one of the most important classes that Parkdale offers: Financial Literacy For Teens.

According to an article in The Daily Times, the United States is ranked 14th in financial literacy and “half of Americans have less than $1,000 in combined checking and savings accounts, with the average household carrying at least $15,000 in credit card debt.” With parents not understanding how to handle their finances, that lack of knowledge could fall on their children and create an endless cycle of financially uneducated people.

“I feel that it is essential that every high school student take and pass a personal finance course before graduation,” said Ms. Bistransin, Parkdale’s financial literacy teacher. “Students who start out in my Fin Lit course often do not know what the course is about, but leave with all of the basic knowledge needed to manage money and live independently of their parents.”

The objective of Parkdale’s financial literacy class is to teach students how they can handle their personal finances properly and learn to have their money work for them. During the course, students could get certified in financial literacy through Everfi, which provides digital real-world education for millions of students.

“Stuff that [students] can get out of this class [include] understanding online banking, identity theft, credit scores and reports, how to rent an apartment, determine how much it costs to own and operate a car, file taxes, get scholarships and loans for college, determine insurance needs, and saving money,” said Ms. Bistransin.

While  many students always complain about how high school doesn’t really teach anything that will help them in the real world, hardly any students sign up for financial literacy. Financial Literacy is  a graduation requirement in six Maryland counties, including Charles County, but Prince George’s County is not one of them.

The class is primarily offered to juniors and seniors, but Ms. Bistransin has found that even with older students, enrollment in the class has been difficult to secure.

“For a lot of juniors and seniors their schedule is already full or they may think they already know enough about money and they are not interested,” said Ms. Bistransin. “That’s why we have elective fairs and try to tell everybody, like in this article, hey sign up for this class, it’s worth it.”

Despite many not signing up for the class, or even knowing it exists, a lot of the students that do finish the class find many benefits of the course..

“There was a lot of things I didn’t know that I learned in that class,” said senior Christina Sullivan. “I’ve had jobs obviously in the past but I didn’t know how to save my money, where to put it, and how to use my bank account correctly. Learning how to do taxes was a main one that helped out because I did my taxes all by myself!”

Only 16.4 percent of U.S. students are required to take a personal finance course to graduate and only five states make taking the course a graduation requirement. Out of all that, only 5.5 percent of low income schools have personal finance as a requirement.

“I think it is the most important course a high school student will take,” said Ms. Bistransin. “And it definitely should be a high school graduation requirement.”