Press Releases


For Immediate Release
April 10, 2008 Contact: David Mancl
608-261-9540

Financial Literacy Still Declining among High School Seniors, Jump$tart Coalition’s 2008 Survey Shows

Wisconsin Students Top National Average First-Ever Jump$tart Survey of College Students Shows Higher Scores

(Madison) While the financial literacy scores of the 2008 high school senior class rank lower than their 2006 peers measured in a national survey, financial literacy scores are higher among college students, the Jump$tart Coalition® for Personal Financial Literacy 2008 survey showed.

In the Jump$tart Coalition's biennial survey, funded by the Merrill Lynch Foundation, high school seniors correctly answered only 48.3 percent of the questions. This mean score is a decrease from those posted by the senior class of 2006, which correctly answered 52.4 percent of the questions. Wisconsin students correctly answered 57 percent of the questions.

“Once again I’m proud Wisconsin is ahead of the rest of the nation,” said Governor Jim Doyle. Nevertheless, we must continue to improve the financial literacy of our youth.”

“The survey demonstrates that graduating high school seniors continue to struggle with financial literacy basics,” said Lewis Mandell, Ph.D., professor of finance and managerial economics at SUNY Buffalo School of Management. Mandell conducts the surveys for Jump$tart, and the Merrill Lynch Foundation which not only funded this year’s high school and college surveys but also the previous high school surveys in 2004 and 2006.

“Perceptions of current economic conditions, particularly the housing market, may have contributed to the decreases,” added Mandell.

This year marked the first-ever college students’ survey. Results indicated higher scores than their high school peers with 62 percent of the questions correctly answered. Scores among college students increased with their rank in school. College freshman, for example, recorded a 59 percent score, while college seniors correctly answered 65 percent of the questions.

Among high school students, those who scored 27 and above on their ACT college entrance exam correctly answered 59 percent of the questions, while seniors with ACT scores 20 and below answered just 43 percent of the survey questions correctly.

“The data suggest that not only age, but problem-solving ability are important factors in students’ abilities to grasp and apply financial information,” said Laura Levine, executive director of the national coalition. “This year’s survey underscores that while we must continue teaching personal finance to high school students, reinforcing and repeating financial literacy efforts at the college level yields positive results.”

The 31-question survey revealed that high school seniors have a lot to learn about important financial concepts. Among the findings in the survey:

  • Forty eight percent correctly said that a credit card holder who only pays the minimum amount on monthly card balances will pay more in annual finance charges than a card holder who pays their balance in full;
  • Seventeen percent correctly answered that stocks are likely to yield higher returns than savings bonds, savings accounts and checking accounts over the next 18 years even though there has never been an 18-year period where this wasn’t true; and
  • Forty percent correctly answered that they could lose their health insurance if their parents become unemployed.
  • Thirty six percent think a house financed with a fixed-rate mortgage is a good hedge against a sudden increase in inflation, compared with 45 percent in 2006.

“It is gratifying to see Wisconsin students beat the national average,” said David Mancl, chair of the Wisconsin Jump$tart Coalition and Director of the Office of Financial Literacy at the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “I am also happy that the Wisconsin scores are higher than in the survey two years ago, but in the big picture our score is still an F+ and it needs to be higher. We still have much work to do,” added Mr. Mancl who recently was appointed to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Literacy.

The high school survey was given to 6,856 high school 12th graders in 40 states. The college survey was given to 1,030 full time students nationwide.

About Jump$tart
The Jump$tart Coalition® has grown to include more than 180 national partners and 48 affiliated state coalitions. The Jump$tart Clearinghouse, which lists more than 700 titles of financial literacy materials available for all, can be found at www.jumpstartclearinghouse.org. A map of state-by-state financial education requirements can be found at www.jumpstart.org under “Legislation.” More information about Jump$tart and its biennial survey can be found at www.jumpstart.org, including a media press kit in the “News” section.

Press Note: Copies of both the 2008 high school and college survey questionnaires, showing detailed responses, are posted on the Jump$tart Web site at www.jumpstart.org in the “Downloads” section.