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Opinion: Personal finance courses should be mandatory in college

Learning about personal finance will set students up for success beyond graduation


"A multitude of different facets go into personal finance such as paying bills and taxes, managing credit, developing a budget and investing in investments." Illustration originally published Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021.

A multitude of different facets go into personal finance such as paying bills and taxes, managing credit, developing a budget and investing in investments. Yet, too many college students know next to nothing on the topic.

In order to give college students the confidence and knowledge they need to make their own financial decisions and understand personal finance, the subject should be a required course in every college curriculum.

Ann Atkinson, executive director of the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development, believes in the importance of personal finance education for young adults.

"Mastery of basic personal finance is essential at a young age in order to pave the path for financial peace in the future," she said.

The U.S. is beginning to incorporate financial literacy into high school education, with 25 states having introduced legislation to include personal finance education in high schools this year. 

Seven states already teach a half-semester, standalone course focusing only on personal finance, and just over 20 states require some kind of personal finance education, which can be incorporated into other courses and is not required to be its own class.

Heber Toscano, a junior studying aerospace engineering and peer academic leader with Barrett, The Honors College, hosted a "Financing in College" event for Barrett students. 

He had initially gained an interest in personal finance during his freshman year of college after realizing it was never taught to him. He said was hungry to learn about personal finance, so he had to take matters into his own hands. 

"It would be nice to have a curriculum-based requirement for personal finance, as it can be overwhelming for students to do their own research," Toscano said. 

If personal finance is built into college curricula, students will be guaranteed knowledge on the basics of the subject before they graduate college, something which is extremely important for people entering society and the workforce. One topic students know surprisingly little about is investing, which Atkinson said, can do a lot of good for students.

"Imagine what good you could do in the world if your money was at work for you, growing even while you sleep," Atkinson said.

Investing and earning interest on those investments can increase the amount of money you have year by year, without anyone touching the money. However, these opportunities don't mean much if young people don't know they exist or how to use them. 

Further, misunderstanding personal finance can result in mishandling finances and making mistakes which can have effects that last for years.

Freshly graduated students could be easily targeted by scams, and some students can even accidentally commit financial crimes. These crimes, even when committed accidentally, can lead to fines, poor financial records and even jail time. 

Understanding finance — what is legal and what is illegal — is crucial for college students.

Talking about finance can help one learn more about it. Toscano suggested "seeking someone who's wiser than you and has more experience in life" can teach a lot about personal finance, as they know what to do and what not to do, helping to avoid making detrimental financial mistakes.

Reach the columnist at and follow @_alexmarie on Twitter.

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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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