Hodan Hassan lives in one of the most diverse areas in Minnesota.
Her Minneapolis neighborhood includes East Africans, Native Americans, Black people, white people and people from other ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Hassan immigrated from Somalia more than two decades ago. She’s a mental health clinician and a self-described social justice advocate who also represents the area in the Minnesota House as a DFL state representative.
Hassan worries that many of her young constituents and other students around Minnesota are not getting enough information in school about how to manage money.
“I finished high school without knowing anything about personal finances,” said Hassan, 40, who said she learned the hard way.
Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, wants a personal finance course to be a graduation requirement for Minnesota high schoolers.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News
“I went to college and got myself into a lot of debt, and I thought I was the only person that was struggling with managing personal finances,” Hassan said. “Then I talked to some of my friends who are either immigrants or from communities of color, and I realized that many of us were struggling with this because money is not something that families with lower socio-economics talk about.”
There is no requirement in Minnesota that students take a stand-alone course on personal finance. Hassan is pushing legislation that would require all students to take such a class before graduating.
In Minnesota, communities of color consistently lag the majority white population in income, employment, home ownership and other measures of wealth. There are likely many reasons for that, but Hassan and others believe that educating students about financial literacy may help begin to change it.
Even though there’s no mandate, many Minnesota schools offer some personal finance education. But unlike English, science, math, and social studies there are no standards as to what should be taught.
Some schools, including Woodbury High School, offer a course as an elective credit.
Greg Waugh enthusiastically teaches the class, which he said is one of the most popular electives at Woodbury High School.
“When you have an emergency fund in place, all of the other stresses in your life tend to be more minimal,” Waugh explained to his students. “Everything is just less because you’ve got that money back there as a security blanket to you — knowing if anything goes wrong, you’ve got something to fall back on.”
Greg Waugh, left, teaches financial literacy to Woodbury High School students in the hope of instructing them how to avoid the pitfalls of debt.
Judy Griesedieck for MPR News
Waugh said his passion …….