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MN high school seniors might be required to take personal finance course

What would be a valuable course for high school students to take? One of the top answers they give is personal finance.

Sponsored by Rep. Hodan Hassan (DFL-Mpls), HF1617, as amended, would require students to take and receive credit in personal finance education during their senior year in order to graduate.  

“When we talk to our students and we ask them, ‘What would make your education more meaningful?’ this is what they put in front of us, and I think we owe it to our students,” Hassan said.

The bill was approved 18-0 Friday by the House Education Policy Committee, and, appropriately, now heads to the House Education Finance Committee. The companion, SF750, awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee, where Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake) is the sponsor.

The new requirement would apply to students beginning grade nine during the 2021-22 school year and beyond, and could be offered in an online, hybrid or in-person format.

“It’s imperative that our students learn basic personal finance skills as it is one of the most important things that you can do to live a healthy, happy and secure life,” Hassan said. “Their level of understanding around the fundamentals of budgeting, saving, debt and investing will impact every part of their lives and can mean the difference between prosperity and poverty.”

But the new course requirement could reduce the number of elective classes students would be able to take, a sticking point for school boards and administrators.

“Those required credits don’t allow a lot of extra room for continued classes that some of these students have worked so very hard for,” said Kimberley Lewis, associate director of government relations for the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Lewis noted that personal finance elements are currently embedded in economics courses beginning in elementary school and continuing through high school. She suggested leaving the course offerings and requirements to be determined at the district level, as opposed to mandating them.   

Republicans expressed support for the intent of the bill, and apprehension over the 2021 effective date and placing a new mandate on districts.

“It’s just one of the most practical things that we could do for our kids and I do urge you to keep working on this,” said Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover).

Hassan said she’s open to extending the effective date to allow students and districts a chance to catch up from pandemic-related learning loss before implementing a new course requirement.

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