Indiana students may need to learn how to open bank accounts, take out loans in order to graduate

A proposal to require all Hoosier high schoolers to take a personal finance course is moving forward, amid a spate of legislation aimed at improving students’ financial literacy.

Senate Bill 35—one of five bills that would make personal finance a graduation requirement—mandates that schools offer a stand-alone course on topics like opening a bank account, applying for loans, and filling out tax returns. High schoolers would be required to take the class beginning with the Class of 2028.

The bill, authored by Republican Sen. Mike Gaskill, unanimously passed the Senate Education and Career Development Committee on Wednesday.

The vote puts Indiana on track to join several other states that have recently adopted financial literacy graduation requirements. However, some lawmakers and others questioned if the bill would create an additional burden for schools, or if the principles of financial literacy could instead be incorporated into other courses.

A total of 15 other states, including Michigan and Ohio, now require such a course for graduation, according to a report from Next Gen Personal Finance. The report also found that nationwide, schools where a majority of students are students of color—as well as those where most students receive federally subsidized meals—were far less likely to have a guaranteed personal finance course than whiter and wealthier school districts.

A mandate for such courses isn’t entirely new to schools in the state. Around 11% of Indiana students are currently enrolled in schools that require a semester-long course dedicated to personal finance, according to Next Gen Personal Finance’s report.

Another Indiana bill would allow students to meet a current graduation requirement to take Algebra II by taking a personal finance course instead.

Testimony from a committee hearing on the bill last week highlighted the necessity of such a course.

“Who’s to know what financial influences may challenge our students in the year 2030?” said Bob Taylor of the Indiana Association of School Superintendents. “To have a solid foundation of financial literacy is going to be critical for them to continue to be lifelong, articulate, intelligent consumers.”

A financial literacy bill has been expected since the Interim Study Committee on Education recommended the measure last fall. At that time, Democratic Sen. Shelli Yoder expressed some concern that math teachers would be tasked with teaching financial literacy while also trying to help students recover from pandemic-era academic setbacks.

Other lawmakers have asked if the bill would create an undue burden for schools.

Gaskill said that the Indiana Department of Education could decide to adjust another mandate to make room for this requirement, but that personal finance is important enough to merit its own class.

A one-semester course that exclusively covers personal finance is the ideal format,  J.W. Fansler of the Indiana Council for Economic Education said, because it allows schools to reach all students just as they may be starting their first jobs.

Integrating personal finance into existing courses is possible, but presents issues, he said. Incorporating it into an economics course conflates two separate subjects, for example, while adding it to math classes might be tricky with high schoolers on different math tracks.

The class should cover budgeting, including tracking expenses like car and house payments, insurance costs, and utility bills, Fansler said. To teach this, some schools have turned to “reality stores,” in which students choose an occupation and learn how much they’ll make on average, and then spend their projected paychecks on both necessities and discretionary costs.

“A lot of students are surprised at how much things cost,” Fansler said of their reaction to personal finance education.  “They think: I’m going to make $15 an hour—but wait—$15 an hour doesn’t go as far as I thought it would.”

Overall, creating a personal finance graduation requirement is good for Indiana students, and the state as a whole, Fansler said.

“Financial stress is one of the top stressors. If they can decrease that, it’s going to make their job performance improve, their relationships better,” he said. “If they’re job prepared, they’ve learned about discipline, it’s going to make their lives better.

Aleksandra Appleton covers Indiana education policy and writes about K-12 schools across the state. Contact her at

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6 thoughts on “Indiana students may need to learn how to open bank accounts, take out loans in order to graduate

  1. This is a great start. When I was in public school in Indiana, we also learned the effects of debt and investing compounding, getting a car loan, student loan, mortgage, and investing in the stock market. The class was called Economics. Maybe it’s time to explore the concept again.

  2. No matter how good an idea is, there is a limited number of hours and classes in a school day. If something is added and mandated, then something else has to drop.

  3. Financial literacy should move forward. Brad J. is correct in the fact that over the years more and more has been placed on the schools to teach children, and that much of that is basic life skills, and common- sense practical solutions that used to be taught at home. But the problem is that nowadays it is Not being taught at home and so many kids come from broken homes and dysfunctional families. It is very sad, but is the current reality. So what is the right thing to do? Maybe schools should focus more on life skills, problem solving, critical thinking, and courses designed to help students become successful, and cease from the politically correct propaganda like CRT, diversity, inclusion, gender identity, etc. There is a lot at stake here. As a parent, grandparent, former teacher, and school board member I fully endorse teaching financial literacy in the curriculum. A lot of the things in the modern curriculum have hurt more than helped kids. What is the proof? One could easily make a case just by looking at past graduation requirements from 50-100 years ago, and see how well prepared for the workforce the vast majority of students in that era were compared to today. The single biggest mistake we have made in public education over the decades was instilling in people the idea that college is for everyone, and that simply is not true.

  4. The old-school way millennial parents were taught involved putting one on top of the other and carrying, if necessary. Now, students are encouraged to rethink how they arrange the numbers. Moldavan gives the example of 41 + 29. You could rewrite 29 as 30, which is a rounder, “friendly number.” Then, you turn 41 into 40 (also “friendly”). You’ve subtracted 1 from 41, and added 1 to 29, so that cancels out. And now you have your product: 70. (From Parents Magazine 12-3-22)

    Old school math is less subjective then this mumbo jumbo math. Why would you add subtraction to an addition problem.
    with 41 + 29 it is simple. Lets put an estimate together for a proposal that has 1900 lines and is $ 32 million dollars in value. Let me know how that works out in the real world.