TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Sweeney which would create a three-year pilot program to provide high school students with financial literacy education was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 35-1, receiving final legislative approval.
“New Jersey has to do a better job in preparing our students for the economic realities of the world around them,” said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “Ignorance of basic financial concepts like compound interest and credit ratings have contributed to years of living and buying beyond our means, and have helped to destabilize our global economy. We need to ensure that New Jersey’s students are given the education they need to make better financial decisions for the future.”
The bill, S-2211, would require the Commissioner of Education to establish a three-year pilot program to provide high school seniors with financial literacy courses in selected school districts. Under the bill, the Commissioner would select six districts to participate – two in South Jersey, two in Central Jersey, and two in North Jersey – and would select these districts to represent a cross section of urban, suburban and rural districts in the State. The Department of Education would be required to provide sample curriculum and instructional materials, a grant to each pilot district to offset the cost of offering the financial literacy instruction, and a report to the Governor and the Legislature at the conclusion of the pilot program on the implementation of the curriculum within the pilot districts, and the possibility of implementing a State-wide financial literacy program.
According to Senator Sweeney, national statistics show that students are accumulating debt at an early age, and making unwise financial decisions. A CBS News report in 2007 noted that almost one-third of high school seniors and more than three quarters of college freshmen nationally have already accumulated credit card debt. The Center for the New American Dream found that over half of all college students in the country carry four or more credit cards by the time they leave school. These numbers are most likely even higher as college students look for ways to fund their education during the current economic crisis.
“Many of our best and brightest students are leaving college with a bachelor’s degree in one hand and a credit card bill in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, in the other” said Senator Sweeney. “We need to reach our students earlier, and impress upon them that financial decisions they make today can have long-lasting consequences for their fiscal stability tomorrow. By giving students an introduction to financial literacy in high school, we can hopefully prepare them to avoid the financial pot-holes which have snared so many others in recent years.”
The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.