WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. --- Students in about a dozen South Carolina high schools are learning personal finances through an online course funded by the state's bankers, and Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday she wants all high schools to participate.
Haley called it an example of how private companies can help public schools in tough economic times. She said she'll work with the education board and the state's schools chief to require that the EverFi program becomes a required part of high school instruction.
Until then, the Republican governor is encouraging superintendents to participate. A letter from her went to superintendents Wednesday.
"We want to teach our children life skills," Haley said at Airport High School in West Columbia, where a freshman English class began using the program this week.
"They need to know what a credit score is. They need to know how to fill out a checkbook. They need to know how they'll pay for college. ... But we have to do it in a way it's fun."
The state has required financial literacy instruction since 2005.
State schools chief Mick Zais supports strengthening the instruction but does not endorse a specific program, said his spokesman Jay Ragley.
But Haley said she'll push specifically for EverFi.
About 3,000 schools across all 50 states are using the program, according to the company.
Earlier this month, EverFi announced that the former executive directors of the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association, Nick Ayers and Nathan Daschle, would lead its efforts to launch statewide programs. Haley got a $900,000 boost to her campaign last fall from two political action committees set up by the Republican Governors Association.
Haley said her support was based solely on the private investment.
"This is a private sector solution to our education system that is not costing the taxpayers one dollar," she said.
The program would normally cost about $5,000 per school, said EverFi CEO Tom Davidson, a former legislator from Maine.
So far, EverFi has received funding from BB&T to roll out the program in 34 schools this fall. The bank is also funding programs in other states. Its state president, Michael Brenan, called it an initial investment. The South Carolina Bankers Association has also gotten behind the program.
"We're going to make this happen," said Brenan, Haley's appointee to the state board of education.
The program involves roughly six hours of class time. Teacher Claire Klein said it's about teaching students the difference between what they want and what they need, and how to make good choices.
South Carolina could become only the second state, after Louisiana, to mandate that schools use EverFi to teach financial literacy, though officials in other states are considering it, said company spokesman Joshua Miramant.
Students likened the online programs to playing games on Facebook. Payton Allison, 14, said it was much better than hearing the lessons from a teacher.
"I learned more about how credit works in the last two days than any other time in my life," she said.