New financial literacy course could soon come to New Mexico high schools

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Between all of the recent talk about student loans and rising interest rates, it seems like financial literacy has never been more important.

“It is practical knowledge that has such an enormous effect over a lifetime. You can’t understate it,” Charlie Bergman said.

Charlie Bergman first taught financial literacy to seniors at Albuquerque Academy. Some people believed they wouldn’t be able to learn the concepts and benefit from it, while he did.

“Students learned it. They enjoyed it. Many students have told me that it was one of the best things they ever did in high school,” Bergman said.

Now, select freshmen at St. John’s College in Santa Fe will get to learn from him. The students include first-generation college attendees, Pell Grant recipients, international students or any students seeking additional support.

If it works this year, it will become a required course for all freshmen.

“This program is designed to demystify what it means to budget, to save, to manage debt, to invest,” said Pier Quintana, the director of personal and professional development at St. John’s College.

Class topics include credit cards, homeownership, retirement plans – and helping students set up their own investment accounts.

We thought, ‘Wouldn’t this be great to have some sort of matching component, either to an investment account or a 529?'” Quintana recalled. “We went to our college president and the college president said, ‘There is a donor who wants to support an initiative like this’.”

The donor will match up to $500 for a student to start an investment account. That is, only after they pass the class.

“It has in it, the structure, the content, and the lesson plan that is perfectly suited to any high school seniors in the state of New Mexico,” Bergman said.

A study by the American Public Education Foundation grades New Mexico at a “B” for financial literacy. Two years ago, it was a “D.”

The study highlights how high schools are required to offer a financial literacy elective. However, the study notes there isn’t a required standalone high school course.

In 2021, the New Mexico House approved that requirement. Then, time ran out before the state Senate could vote on it.

“We’re really monitoring the legislation pretty closely to see if this is something that’s going to be a new requirement for K-12 education. If it is, we’re waiting and ready to help train any of the K-12 teachers in New Mexico,” Quintana said.

The college will also offer a similar course to any interested staff and faculty.