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OUR VIEW ON THE ISSUE: Financial literacy requirement is no-brainer
A financial literacy course requirement is one that is needed in Georgia’s public schools. - photo by Metro Creative Services

In a flurry of what has been deemed “controversial” education bills recently signed into law, there’s one piece of legislation that should not be overlooked: SB 220.

Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed a bill that would guarantee all students are at least exposed to a financial literacy course before they graduate high school. Starting in two years, school year 2024-25, all 11th and 12th grade students will be required to take at least a half-credit course in financial literacy before they graduate.

Apparently, Georgia is the 13th state to enact such a requirement. The Peach State joins Florida, Nebraska, Ohio and Rhode Island as states that passed similar bills within the last year.

During a signing event recently, Kemp said the legislation would “ensure that [students] learn financial literacy in our schools, like the importance of good credit and how to budget properly so that they can be better prepared for the world beyond the classroom.”

Considering Georgia has the sixth lowest average FICO score in the U.S., this is a good thing. And if we’re being honest, less than half of Newton County’s high school students probably don’t know how to write a check and/or balance a check book. And who knows? There are likely many adults living in Newton County today that don’t know how to do this either.

But let’s back up.

What is a FICO score? A FICO score is a specific credit score that was created by the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) in 1989. FICO scores factor into more than 90% of the credit decisions made in the U.S. and are the ideal figure for assessing the financial health of a given area.

Why does good credit matter? Lenders see having a higher credit score as a sign that a borrower is more likely to repay their debts. Not only can it affect whether or not you’ll qualify for insurance or a loan, but it can also affect how much you’ll pay overall. 

Lenders charge those with lower credit scores higher interest rates and premiums to account for the increased risk to lenders.

Here are the FICO Score ranges:

• 850-800 is considered “exceptional.”

• 799-740 is considered “very good.”

• 739-670 is considered “good.”

• 669-580 is considered “fair.”

• 579-300 is considered “very poor.”

In Georgia, the state average FICO score was 693 in 2021. The national average was 714.

How do you raise your credit score? The short answer is — you guessed it — financial literacy. It’s knowing how to create and live on a budget and manage your money so you can live you life without worrying where your next meal comes from or how you’re going to pay the bills each month.

Thank you to our legislators and Gov. Brian Kemp for shining the spotlight on financial literacy. In our view, making such courses now a requirement for our state’s students is a bipartisan no-brainer.

Our View on the Issue is an opinion of The Covington News editorial board, which includes Editor and Publisher Taylor Beck and News Editor Tom Spigolon.