Kids like to spend money, but few really know what it takes to earn and keep it.
That’s why one program is offering monetary incentives for teens to learn more about personal finance.
Raise.me is offering students a scholarship of up to $1,000 for simply completing an online personal finance course. The company, which launched in 2012, partners with colleges and universities to offer students scholarships for achievements like getting good grades, achieving high test scores, keeping a job and volunteering in their communities.
To get the $1,000 so-called microscholarship, students in grades 9-12 must complete 9 financial lessons on EverFi, a free digital learning resource. The lessons cover topics like saving, credit scores, investments and taxes. Once completed, students will earn the scholarship to one of the participating schools, including The University of Rochester, Oberlin College and the University of San Diego. The participating institution will issue the scholarship only if the student enrolls in their school.
Many colleges already provide financial guidance to help enrolled students stay on track and graduate on time, but Raise.me co-founder George Kirkland says some institutions want those conversations to happen earlier.
“A lot of our college partners said it’s important for students to understand this information as they are going through the college application process,” Kirkland told Yahoo Finance. “To help them understand the cost of college, state and federal aid, and scholarships so that they can make an intelligent decision.”
Raise.me says it adds up to three colleges to its platform every week, and plans to make the financial literacy program a staple that they recommend to schools going forward.
Learning about credit card balances in high school
Raise.me isn’t the only organization focused on bringing financial literacy to high school students. Programs are springing up across the US to help students learn more about real-world personal finance.
In the Midwest, the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust provided $14,000 in scholarships on April 21 to students who performed well in a Personal Finance Challenge competition. In Wisconsin, 100 high school seniors gathered in Milwaukee on May 1 for a “Bank Your Future” program aimed at teaching students personal finance and interviewing skills.
Meanwhile, students at Jefferson High School in Tampa, Fla., are taught about setting budgets and saving for retirement thanks to a program called Foundations in Personal Finance, developed by financial expert and radio host, Dave Ramsey. One in three high schools across the country have used Ramsey’s curriculum, which has reached more than three million students in the US, according to his website.
According to data from the Council for Economic Education (CEE), students who learn about finance are more likely to save money, pay off their credit cards every month, and have higher credit scores. With results like this, implementing financial literacy programs in every high school seems like a no brainer, but it has met some resistance.
Only 17 states currently require students to take a high school course in personal finance, including Florida, New York, Virginia and Tennessee. Of those, only 5 states make students complete a stand-alone personal finance course in order to graduate.
Nan Morrison, president and CEO of the CEE, says there is more economic education in schools than when they started tracking it in 1998, but growth has been inconsistent. “Trends were declining, now they are flat,” she told Yahoo Finance. “As you can imagine, interest increases when times are bad, and wanes in good times.”
Morrison says there are several reasons why schools have been slow to implement courses in financial literacy. Mainly, educational structures are different in every state, so integrating it into existing curriculum can be difficult, and a lack of funding has made it hard to train teachers.
Still, a 2016 study from the CEE reveals that the specific topic of personal finance is slowly gaining traction. Data showed that several state treasury departments are taking up the cause, and students in a handful of states have made it their personal mission to learn more about money. Like the group of teens in Rhode Island, who in 2014 pushed their state to adopt the CEE’s National Standards for Financial Literacy program after recognizing the laundry list of financial decisions they would have to make after graduation.
Some might argue kids should enjoy their childhood without stressing about. The issue with that line of thinking is that those children will eventually grow into adults who have to make very tough financial decisions: Isn’t it better to gain an understanding of how, say, interest works on debt before they take on thousands in student loans?
“It is important to start young, to give our kids access to the language and grammar of finance, so that when they become teens, and start earning money, they have the tools to make good decisions and the confidence to ask questions,” Morrison says.
Brittany is a reporter at Yahoo Finance.