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Why Is Money Management Education Important for Students?

Student financial wellness has become a hot topic in higher education. Financial literacy programs can take some effort, but this type of programming is incredibly important to student success. Here are three reasons why money management education is needed for students:

1. Inadequate money management skills can lead to low retention rates

According to Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, financial stress is one of the top reasons students drop out of school. This is especially true for first-generation students; 30 percent drop out of school within three years. These students tend to have less money for education and lack the advice and support of family members with higher education experience.

2. Students need to establish good financial habits to avoid loan default

According to a Wall Street Journal blog post, the average class of 2015 graduate with student loan debt has to pay back more than $35,000 in student loans. And more than 71 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with a student loan, compared with less than 50 percent twenty years ago and about 64 percent 10 years ago.

Unfortunately, it is clear that students are not well-versed on student loans and the overall cost of college. The National Association of Student Financial Associations (NASFAA) reported that 65 percent of high-debt student loan borrowers were surprised or misunderstood aspects of their loans or the borrowing process, and the Brookings Institute found that 50 percent of all first-year students in the U.S. seriously underestimate how much student debt they have.

Education on student loans and repayment will make students more aware of what they owe and their options for successfully paying it back. Additionally, financial literacy education on topics such as budgeting, credit scores and debt management will help students better manage their money, making them likely to be able to afford those loan payments.

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3. Financial hardships are stressful for students and can impact their future success

In the 2016 national freshman motivation to complete college report, Ruffalo Noel Levitz reported that only 47.3 percent of students feel they have the financial resources to complete their education, and that figure drops to 36.4 percent for first-generation students. Almost a third of all of the students in the report agreed that they have financial problems that are distracting and troublesome. Students can’t be expected to perform at their highest level when dealing with these types of stress.

Financial stress caused by student debt can also follow students into their post-college years. According to a survey of 18-29 year-olds conducted by Bankrate, 29 percent have put off buying a car, 19 percent have put off marriage and 30 percent have put off buying a home due to student loan debt. Developing good money management skills is an important part of setting students up for success during and after school.

Should Money Management Education be a Financial Aid Office Initiative?

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When working with faculty and administrators on student success plans, as soon as financial literacy comes up, it’s not uncommon to see everyone turn to the financial aid office for ownership, development and delivery.

There are many reasons why. Often, we assume that money management education efforts and financial literacy are related to default prevention or that only students receiving financial aid need money management education. Financial literacy efforts need to be a campus-wide initiative and would be better served with their own structure or owned by a cross-functional task force.

Here are some reasons why:

  • In July 2016, Fortune Magazine reported results from the National Capability Study that found nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. This includes information on how to calculate interest payments and basic questions about financial risk. Given this data, you want to make sure that your money management education efforts are available to all students. In fact, you might even want to make sure that financial literacy education is available to all members of the campus community.
  • COHEAO’s Financial Literacy Awareness White Paper, March 2014, states that “Financial Literacy programs do not necessarily fit exclusively within the mission of any single department or division.” The authors suggest that a wide net of potential stakeholders and advocates will enhance the probability of launching and sustaining a program. Representatives from offices such as academic deans and advisors; bursars; career services; enrollment management; admissions and first-year experience; alumni relations and development; and financial aid have similar interests in ensuring students develop money management skills. Other departments, such as the library, information technology and institutional research, may be helpful in providing resources and helping to track participation and outcomes. And don’t forget to include students in your planning efforts!
  • Anecdotally, higher education administrators repeatedly tell me that information delivered in the classroom carries more weight with students than information from workshops or administration-led efforts. It makes sense that faculty are better equipped to bring innovative pedagogical methods to bear on financial literacy topics. Perhaps students take it more seriously if money management education is part of their coursework. Maybe it is related to the ability to apply theoretical concepts to real life situations. Do you find this to be true on your campus?

So, while financial aid administrators must be key players in developing and delivering money management education, the odds for a successful effort are greater when that education is developed and delivered by a campus-wide coalition of faculty and administrators.

Each brings a unique perspective to the effort and creates multiple opportunities to provide students and community members with information that will help them be successful in school and in life.

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