State-mandated personal finance course begins next fall

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The numbers outside Abbie Weipert’s classroom are alarming. Presidential hopes point to student debt of $ 1.6 trillion. A US Federal Reserve report indicates that a quarter of American adults have no retirement savings.

But in Weipert’s personal finance class at Iowa City West High, lawmakers and educators across the state see something as a cure.

Starting in the next school year, high schools across the state will be required to offer a one-semester personal finance course, which Iowa City community schools have been doing for decades.

With a few tweaks, Weipert’s personal finance trimester elective course at West High will become the mandatory course next year.

Typically, Weipert begins the term by asking students what financial decisions they anticipate and uses that feedback as a starting point. Under new state requirements, she expects to have to move faster to go through a long list of topics – from emergency fund savings to types of insurance to balloon mortgages.

Abbie Weipert is teaching a personal finance class on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa.

Because there are more subjects required by the state than can reasonably fit in a term, some of the subjects will instead be moved to a general economics course, to meet the mandate.

The demands mean giving up some of its flexibility. In recent years, Weipert may have noted a decline in the number of Millennial homeowners and a lack of interest among students, and has focused his teaching time away from homeownership.

Still, Weipert is a strong supporter of the requirement and advocates for the school district to offer an additional personal finance course through Kirkwood Community College. She would have liked the course to be compulsory when she was a teenager.

“I went to West High many years ago and didn’t know enough to keep up with it,” she said. “I didn’t know it was important. But the reality is that we graduate at 18, and we make some serious financial decisions very quickly, the student debt that we’re about to take on, the leases of ‘apartments that we are about to take. ”

Weipert, who is also an assistant professor at Kirkwood, said the credited college course would go deeper into the topic and require a wrap-up project on the part of the students.

The course has been on Kirkwood’s catalog for years, says Jon Weih, director of the Kirkwood Regional Center. The course aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills to manage money at a crucial time.

“I remember when the credit card company moved to Kirkwood and signed you up for a bag of Skittles,” he said. “Boom, you’re 18 with a credit card in hand.”

Posters about credit, entrepreneurs and budgets hang in a personal finance class on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at West High School in Iowa City, Iowa.

Teachers also learn about personal finance

Weih believes that money management skills will have a far greater impact on a student than study skills in their lifetime. Although he and others who study education in the state point out that a person’s understanding of personal finance topics like mortgages often comes down to one factor.

“It depends on whether or not your parents have this knowledge,” said Jamaal Young, an associate professor at the University of Iowa who teaches future teachers.

Young incorporates personal finance topics into his college classes. He theorizes that a more effective way to teach personal finance would be to start earlier in the schooling of K-12 students and expand the subject matter as students get older.

But to educate students about personal finance, Young said there needs to be a companion effort to educate teachers about personal finance.

“In my opinion, we have to start earlier,” he said. “Unfortunately, most of our K-12 teachers don’t have this knowledge.”

In recent years, Iowa City community schools have launched a financial education campaign for teachers covered by the district insurance plan. The campaign is the result of a “wellness committee”, which helps find wellness initiatives that impact employee health.

“It came from a need,” Weipert said. “They didn’t do it just out of the goodness of their hearts.… Clearly even teachers need to know more about their finances.”

The first day of Weipert’s personal finance course begins with a warning to this effect: “I tell kids I’m not perfect with my money. She shows them her credit scores over the year as an example of what it takes to get yourself out of debt.

She doesn’t think her students will be perfect with money after her class, but she hopes they will walk away with some insight and some of the financial skills to deal with the financial burdens they will encounter after graduation. their diploma.

“If we can approach young people from many angles, whether it is their school, their banking establishments, the financial aid counselors on their campus or their parents,” she said. “I think we can help alleviate some of these financial crises that we always hear about.”

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