On a crisp September weekend, 150 high school teachers and administrators came to Penn’s campus—with many more joining via the web—to participate in the PwC-Knowledge@Wharton High School Seminar for High School Educators on Business and Financial Responsibility. This conference offered an opportunity for educators to discuss the importance of financial literacy classes for high school students.

This subject is growing in popularity. Brian Page, a finance, economics and business teacher at Reading High School in Ohio, says four of five parents and nine of 10 teachers would like financial literacy classes to be a graduation requirement. And the students want it too.

As one of Page’s students explained: “I’m sick of being poor.”

Financial literacy classes in high school could help students plan responsibly for the future and operate in today’s economic reality—from helping them understand student debt to explaining how a credit card works. And students aren’t the only beneficiaries.

Georgette Chapman Phillips, HOM’98

“Once a student is empowered with knowledge and information, they take that knowledge and information home,” explained Georgette Chapman Phillips, HOM’98, the David B. Ford Professor of Real Estate, professor of legal studies and law, and vice dean of the Wharton undergraduate division.

“There were many causes behind the mortgage crisis … but one of the main causes was that people were signing documents that they fundamentally did not understand,” Phillips argued.

Financial literacy classes might help prevent this in the future.

More states are instituting financial literacy curricular requirements. To date, 13 U.S. states have some type of requirement. High school teachers must prepare to meet the need. For its part, Knowledge@Wharton High School offers teaching materials and lesson plans on its website.

“Four of five teachers feel ill-prepared to teach financial literacy,” Ed Lovelidge, WG’91, the Philadelphia market metro managing partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers, said during the seminar.

Says Annamaria Lusardi, a professor of economics and accountancy and academic director of the Global Center for Financial Literacy at the George Washington University School of Business and panelist at the event, “If you’re not preparing the current generation for the new world, you’re missing something very important.”