Financial Literacy in the Classroom

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) – With rising tuition, inflation and so many other financial challenges, it’s more important now than it ever has been for students to be prepared for the future. One local teacher is preparing her students with financial literacy and hopes to expand the curriculum statewide. 

For many, learning about personal finance is a process of trial and error. Teaching financial literacy in the classroom is not required in Pennsylvania, but it is an option in some schools. 

“Trial and error is a great way to learn. But, unfortunately, with money mistakes, sometimes the recovery process is lifelong,” said Carey Barzeski, a financial literacy and business teacher at McDowell Intermediate High School in Erie. “I’m trying to get my students to do this stuff now so they can have that advantage of time,” she added. 

Barzeski’s class covers topics like behavioral economics, budgeting, investing and even planning for college. The average in-state tuition cost for public universities in Pennsylvania is roughly $15,000 per year and the national average for private college tuition is roughly $40,000. 

“Student debt is at $1.7 trillion and counting. We know that inflation’s real, but the amount of college costs are rising beyond inflation. They’ve actually been rising beyond medical expenses,” said Barzeski. “It’s just alarming that 18-year-olds are signing up for $100,000 in debt, $200,000 in debt, and we’re not doing something to stop them or educate them about what they’re doing before they’re doing this,” she added. 

Some students are already seeing a return on their financial education. 

“I also have started to budget for college. I have saved up almost all of my money to pay for the entire first year. I actually managed to apply what I learned to my life,” said Abigail Mack, a high school senior in the Ligonier Valley School District in Westmoreland County. 

Barzeski and state officials are hoping to make some “Capitol” gains in Harrisburg by raising interest among lawmakers. Barzeski spoke virtually at an event in Harrisburg earlier this week with Pennsylvania Auditor General Tim DeFoor to mark the end of his Statewide Financial Literacy Tour. 

“We need the Legislature, the House and the Senate, to pass financial literacy. By not doing this, we’re at a competitive disadvantage,” said DeFoor. 

DeFoor says results from states that have a personal finance requirement prove it’s an investment worth making. 


“They’re seeing improved credit scores. They’re seeing reduced delinquency rates. They understand the importance of saving,” said DeFoor, adding that preparing the job-creators of tomorrow with these skills is imperative for Pennsylvania’s economic future. “It’s this generation that we’re going to depend on to create businesses, to create jobs, to fuel our next economy. Financial literacy is so vital to Pennsylvania’s growth,” he added. 

Barzeski says the younger you start, the better. 

“We need to make it a graduation requirement that every Pennsylvania high school graduate has a full course in personal finance. Parents want this, adults want this for their community- even if they don’t have a student- adults think that this is important. We all know some of the mistakes that we made or the time that we lost not knowing some of this information,” said Barzeski. 

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