Personal finance is graduation requirement for incoming freshmen

From left, Oak Mountain High School teacher Shelley Stanley, Deputy State Treasurer Glenda Allred and Shelby County Schools Schools to Career Resource Specialist Stan Brown attend an April 23 training seminar for a new personal finance-career readiness class at Alabaster's Instructional Service Center. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

From left, Oak Mountain High School teacher Shelley Stanley, Deputy State Treasurer Glenda Allred and Shelby County Schools Schools to Career Resource Specialist Stan Brown attend an April 23 training seminar for a new personal finance-career readiness class at Alabaster’s Instructional Service Center. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Students entering ninth grade for the 2013-2014 school year will be required to complete a personal finance-career readiness class before graduating, according to a curriculum change approved by the Shelby County Board of Education.

The county school board approved the graduation requirement change in late 2012 starting with next year’s freshmen, said county Coordinator of Career and Technical Education Rene Day.

Shortly after the Shelby County School System agreed to add the personal finance-career readiness class to its graduation requirements, the state Board of Education did the same.

“We didn’t know at the time that this would be a state graduation requirement too,” Day said during an April 23 teacher training seminar for the new class at Alabaster’s Instructional Services Center. “For the state to add it as a requirement, that just confirms what we are doing here in Shelby County. We are way ahead of the curve.”

Some schools, such as Shelby County High School, are already offering the class, which seeks to teach students the importance of managing credit card debt, leasing and mortgaging and other financial lessons they will need after graduating high school.

“Statistics are telling us that student debt is at an all-time high,” Day said. “Students are just not learning how to handle money.”

The April 23 teacher training seminar also drew state attention, as Deputy Alabama Treasurer Glenda Allred sat in on the classes.

“We heard Shelby County was already implementing this class, so we wanted to see how they are doing it,” Allred said. “We will take all this information back and figure out how we can help on a state level.”

Allred said many high school seniors and recent graduates are inundated with offers from credit card companies, and said teenagers can quickly get into financial trouble without the proper knowledge.

“It’s easy to accumulate a lot of debt at an early age. They can get behind the eight ball very quickly,” Allred said. “Finance is more complicated now than it has ever been. It’s crucial for students to understand how that stuff works.”