Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg today called on state lawmakers and education officials to make financial literacy a required course for high school graduation in Nebraska.
“Financial literacy knowledge is something every high school graduate needs and will use throughout his or her lifetime,” Stenberg said in remarks prepared for delivery at a news conference, hosted by the Nebraska Bankers Association, at the Embassy Suites in LaVista.
“Those who lack this knowledge, in many cases, will struggle with financial difficulties throughout their lives. This is why I strongly support requiring that every Nebraska high school student be required to complete a course in financial literacy as a requirement for graduation,” Stenberg said.
Stenberg was included in a panel of speakers who addressed the state of economic education in Nebraska K-12 schools during the news conference. Others on the panel were Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln; Richard Baier, president of the Nebraska Bankers Association; Jennifer Davidson, president of the Nebraska Council on Economic Education; and Sydney Kobza, Career Field Specialist, Business, Marketing and Management, Nebraska Department of Education.
Since 2013, more than 36,000 students in high schools and middle schools across Nebraska have participated in the Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars program sponsored by the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST 529), said Stenberg. The program offers online courses for high school students and middle school students in Nebraska at no charge to the students, the schools, or the taxpayers. Stenberg is Trustee of NEST, Nebraska’s state-sponsored, tax-advantaged college savings program.
“These programs have been very successful,” Stenberg said. “While I have been pleased with the success of our Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars program, I believe the State of Nebraska needs to do more.”
The average knowledge gain for students using the high school course was 63 percent in 2016-17, the latest year for which complete statistics are available. In the subject areas of investing and financing higher education, the average knowledge gain was 88 percent based on pre- and post-testing, Stenberg said.
He said the number of schools using the Nebraska NEST Financial Scholars also has shown steady growth. This school year, 114 high schools offered the online program, reaching 8,672 students. In 2013-14, the first school year of the program in Nebraska, a total of 81 schools offered the course and 2,200 students took part.
A total of 102 elementary and middle schools in Nebraska offered Vault-Understanding Money course this school year, the second year the course has been offered. A total of 4,374 students took part in the course.
Both courses were developed by EverFi Inc., an educational technology company in Washington, D.C.
Stenberg said his interest in providing financial literacy education to Nebraska schools began in 2012, a year after he was elected to office.
“I was concerned that nationwide studies showed a lack of financial literacy among adults, college students and high school students. In fact, part of the cause of the 2008 financial crisis can be traced to people borrowing more money for houses than they could afford to repay. Also in 2012, as Trustee of the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, I was looking for ways to increase awareness of our state-sponsored, tax-advantaged college savings program,” he said.