National Opinion Poll Finds Teenagers Strongly Distrust Financial Service Providers

A recent poll released by the University of Arizona shows that the majority of high school students surveyed reported a “significant amount of distrust toward banks, credit unions, credit card companies, businesses and investment institutions.” The poll questioned nearly 900 high school students two years after the height of the country’s financial crisis.

The University of Arizona’s Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research commissioned The Financial Literacy Group, a consulting firm, to conduct the survey earlier this year. The poll was offered to students at 18 high schools in 11 states across the country, and 878 students completed the survey in January and February of this year. Respondents from all levels of high school were represented.

Surveyors said the findings reveal that young people do not understand the basic services and products offered by financial institutions. That is a trend researchers have reported for years. More revealing, though, is that students still believe in the importance of education and that “financial success can be achieved with the right financial decisions.”

Surveyors said these findings bolster the need for financial education to help debunk students’ misconception of the financial industry in order to prepare them for the financial choices they will face in adulthood.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed legislation (HB1554 and SB810) earlier this year that requires students entering ninth-grade students across the Commonwealth to take a one-credit course in economics and personal finance in order to earn a standard or advanced high school diploma. The VSCPA was active in initiating and protecting the requirement.

The Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants (VSCPA) as well as numerous other organizations statewide have been advocating for this critical educational requirement for five years. In 2009, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) approved the one-credit course in economics and personal finance as a requirement for high school graduation. The course was initially slated to begin in 2010, but lawmakers placed a one year delay on all new requirements in last year’s legislative session.

For more information on the financial literacy graduation requirement, please visit the Virginia Department of Education website at www.doe.virginia.gov or visit www.financialfitness.org.

An executive summary of the study is available online.

LAST UPDATED 7/1/2011

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