First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others who think and write about public education.

When I got my first paycheck for political campaigning and nearly a third of it was tax deducted, I was surprised to find that I only made minimum wage. Assuming this is why adults are constantly complaining about taxes, I shrugged it off.

When I mentioned this as an adult story to a family friend, someone explained that if I filed my tax returns next April, I would likely get some of that money back. While the terms of the loan crossed my mind, the story of the tax refund immediately cheered me up. I didn’t know this was possible and I’m not alone.

A head shot of a teenage girl wearing hoop earrings and a white blouse.

Many high school students are about to face one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. But many of us aren’t ready to make this decision and many other decisions, from paying rent to using credit cards to saving for the proverbial rainy day. We are not prepared. What we don’t know about money management could last for decades to come.

I attend Stuyvesant High School, where students can take over 30 AP classes and choose from over 50 electives. But until recently, there were no personal finance classes. Students graduated well prepared for college, but were often ignorant about managing their money.

In 2021, I wrote my high school thesis The Stuyvesant Spectator about the need for financial literacy education. My work inspired Stuyvesant to create a personal finance elective for the upcoming school year. I noticed that there isn’t. In a grade of over 800 students, only 8% of seniors were able to take the course.

I attended the class several times as I was unable to register due to high demand. I saw seniors reviewing college admissions and financial aid packages and showing them how to create a budget using the real numbers at hand. In another lesson, we learned about marketing tactics companies use to attract customers. Students understood how to use these strategies to create their own fictional company and avoid falling for misleading marketing claims.

Financial literacy is not a topic that only some students have to understand. It’s like a health class. It’s a key area of ​​knowledge that every high school student needs (yes, even if that means yet another graduation requirement). Recognizing this, the editorial board of Stuyvesant Spectator published a special issue titled “Stocktator” to promote the class and its expansion. We spoke with teachers, students, and alumni to understand what students want and need from their financial literacy classes.

A bill is before a committee in the New York State Senate that would require schools to offer financial literacy courses and students to complete financial literacy courses.

It found that 89% of students surveyed didn’t know how to get a college loan and 92% wanted more financial education. Alumni shared stories of misusing credit, filling out federal financial aid forms without parental help, racking up huge amounts of debt, and not yet figuring out how to pay their taxes.

In response to student demand and advocacy through journalism, our administration expanded the personal finance course from one section to two, but without state mandate it would be difficult to offer to everyone. More than 10 states require personal financial education for high school students, but New York, the financial capital of the United States, is not one of them.

New York State now requires that economics classes (required for graduation) touch on personal finance, but in practice it covers budgeting, banking basics, buying and renting, insurance, identity theft, credit, and more. At least one semester is required to introduce the topic. Score.

Many high schools do not have the resources to start private financial classes without a state mandate. submitted to the commission.

I hope you are lucky enough to attend Stuyvesant’s Personal Finance class next semester. I still don’t understand the difference between a checking account and a savings account, and I don’t know my credit score. I got my tax refund, but the process was very complicated, so I asked my father to understand it. However, I am an adult soon and do not want to start an independent life limited by my lack of financial literacy.

High school students focus heavily on their scores when it comes to the SAT, ACT, and GPA. But few people know enough about the score that lasts into adulthood: the credit score. Some people never solve calculus problems again after high school. Our test scores and his GPA turn into a trivial measure of past performance. But each of us has to manage our finances. That’s what we need to learn.

Anisha Singhal is a third grader at Stuyvesant High School and opinion editor for the school newspaper. Stuyvesant Spectator. She is a financial literacy advocate and soccer player. Her Citi Biking is a common sight in New York City.

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