Heading into the fourth quarter of the 2022-23 school year, 55 students have completed the newest graduation requirement at Broadalbin-Perth Jr./Sr. High School: A half-credit course in personal finance.
The graduation requirement, which all students must complete starting with the Class of 2024, was approved by the district’s Board of Education in the spring. At that time, Broadalbin-Perth became the 20th school district in New York state to require a personal finance course for graduation.
According to B-P Jr./Sr. High School Principal Mark Brooks, the purpose of the course is to prepare students for life beyond high school.
“We have always wanted to build programs at B-P that prepare our students for life after high school,” Brooks said. “Oftentimes, it’s easy to just focus on college being the life after high school, but it’s growing increasingly important to prepare our students for the ‘real world.’”
Students who have taken the course understand the life-long benefits of what they’ve learned.
“Personal finance is the kind of class you take when you’re 17 or 18 years old, and you still remember what you learned when you’re in your 60s or 70s because it’s stuff you’ll be doing all your life,” said senior Sam Hotaling.
Broadalbin-Perth’s course employs a nationally recognized curriculum, Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF). Throughout the course, students learn how to make a personal budget, how to write a check, and about student loans, rent agreements, mortgages, and more.
“We’ve gone over things like interest, taxes, home and car buying, and how to save and spend money properly,” Hotaling said. “There were plenty more topics, but these stood out because I feel like they apply to me the most as I go into my college years.”
Over the summer, Broadalbin-Perth hired business teacher Joelle Zendren to specifically teach this course. Zendran’s enthusiasm for the subject is palpable in her classroom.
“I always tell my students that, whether you are going to college, directly into the workforce, or if you never get a job in your life, personal finance will always be used in your daily lives,” Zendran said. “Without a course like this, students most likely will never have the opportunity to learn these concepts unless they have a very financially educated parent or adult in their lives.”
Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tomlinson knows from experience how valuable the personal finance course will be for B-P students.
“When I first stepped on campus as a college freshman, the first new person I met was someone who signed me up for my first credit card,” Tomlinson said. “I didn’t know anything about them, and now I’m embarrassed to think about how long it took me to pay off that $700 balance and what it did to my credit score. Adults like me had to learn these lessons the hard way, and we want our students to learn from our financial mistakes so that, hopefully, they don’t repeat them.”
Broadalbin-Perth’s personal finance course is partially funded by a grant from NGPF’s Gold Standard Challenge program. Over the past four years, NGPF has awarded 195 grants to high schools “committed to delivering the Gold Standard in financial education: a standalone personal finance course that all students would take before graduation,” said Christian Sherrill, director of partnerships and advocacy at NGPF. Of those 195 recipients nationwide, Broadalbin-Perth is one of 12 recipients in New York state.
According to Sherrill, NGPF is a national nonprofit launched in 2014 that is working to guarantee every high school student in America will take a personal finance course by the year 2030. The organization offers a free personal finance curriculum and free professional development for teachers to build their confidence in personal finance. NGPF also partners with educators to advocate in schools, districts, state legislatures, and state education agencies to expand access to personal finance courses.
“Everyone’s experience beyond high school will vary,” Zendran said. “It’s crucial that students are aware of how the finance world works, since it will absolutely affect them. My goal is to help them acquire the knowledge and skills they need to make positive financial decisions throughout their lives.”
Brooks agrees. “This course — and this graduation requirement — was absolutely needed,” he said. “Knowledge in the area of personal finance is something that will serve our students well for their entire lives.“