It doesn’t take much research to determine that college students are experiencing financial stress related to paying for school, student loans, and making daily ends meet. 

For instance, in a Journal of Finance Therapy study1, researchers found that 71 percent of college students experienced financial stress with the main stressors of not having enough money to do what their peers are doing and expected debt at graduation. 

The reason this is of such great importance is because of the effects of such stress.

One study2 found that financial stress hurts a student’s ability to succeed academically and another shows that high levels of financial stress often predict the likelihood that a student will drop out of school3

Related article: Is College Success Correlated With Financial Wellness?

That’s why educational institutions are beginning to offer financial wellness to their students.

However, universities, like companies, are not very likely to measure financial wellness program success.

This lack of measurement is unfortunate because analyzing program data can help colleges and universities:

  • Find the right program to meet the needs of their students
  • Determine the best ways to communicate about the existence of the program to the student body including what to promote, when to promote it, and what channels to use for promotion
  • Discover how effective the program is in helping students alleviate financial stress and improve financial well-being
  • Calculate the return on investment of the program

With so many great reasons to measure the success of a financial wellness program, why aren’t all colleges doing it?

One reason is that they aren’t sure what to measure.

At iGrad, we recommend using data provided by your financial wellness program as well as student-reported data in the following areas:

  • Student Financial Behaviors: Behaviors determining the financial health of a student in such areas as saving, budgeting, and debt reduction.
  • Student-specific Data:  Data showing how much students understand personal financial topics and how they rate their financial health. 
  • University-specific data: Metrics suggesting how students feel about their school and how they use student loans and other financial aid. 
  • Program-specific data: Data determining how satisfied students are with the financial wellness program, including usage and engagement level statistics. 

Within each of these categories, it is possible to fine-tune the data by looking at specific demographics such as age, sex, class, major, student type (full-time, part-time, first-generation, on-campus, off-campus, remote learner, etc), and more.

To help you get started, here are 65 metrics to help you measure the success of your student financial wellness program:

Measuring Student Financial Behaviors 

The best measurement of a student financial wellness program is financial behavior change.

Increasing positive financial behaviors in the areas of planning, spending, saving, and debt lead to greater financial wellness and less financial stress.

Programs that offer the right education, tools, and motivation can help students make these behavioral changes. 

Student Planning Behaviors

  1. Percentage increase in students creating a budget

  2. Percentage increase of students using a budget yearly/quarterly/monthly/weekly/daily

  3. Percentage increase in students checking account balances at least monthly

  4. Percentage increase in students paying bills on time

  5. Percentage increase of students planning their discretionary spending

Student Saving Behaviors

  1. Percentage increase of students with an emergency savings account

  2. Percentage increase of emergency savings balance equal to or greater than three months of income 

  3. Percentage increase of students on track for other savings goals

Student Credit and Debt Behaviors

  1. Percentage increase of students paying credit card in full each month

  2. Percentage decrease in average credit card balance

  3. Percentage increase in average credit score

Student Loan Behaviors

  1. Percentage decrease of average student loan balance

  2. Percentage of students taking only the student loans they need vs the maximum awards

Measuring Student-Specific Data

When coupled with changing financial behaviors, an understanding of personal finance can be a great advantage for students.

Students without the right financial knowledge often feel stressed about finances and their financial health.

This stress can lead to higher dropout rates, reduced class load, lower GPAs, and more.

If a financial wellness program can increase literacy and financial health, while decreasing stress, then it can be seen as successful.

Here are some metrics that measure these items:

Student Financial Literacy

  1. Overall student financial knowledge

  2. Financial knowledge by grade

  3. Financial knowledge by age

  4. Financial knowledge by major

  5. Financial knowledge gain

  6. Overall student financial confidence

  7. Financial confidence by grade

  8. Financial confidence by age

  9. Percentage increase in student loan awareness, ie knowing how much they borrowed and how much their monthly payments will be upon graduation

Student Financial Stress

  1. Overall student financial stress

  2. Financial stress by grade

  3. Financial stress by age

  4. Financial stress by major

  5. Number of hours spent neglecting schoolwork to focus on financial worries

  6. Number of hours spent on financial worries by grade

  7. Number of hours spent on financial worries by age 

  8. Number of hours spent on financial worries by major

  9. Percentage of students using campus health and mental health services for stress-related illnesses

Student Financial Health

  1. Percentage of students able to meet month-to-month financial obligations

  2. Number of students needing emergency grants/loans

  3. Average amount of emergency grants/loans

  4. Number of students using other campus financial emergency services

  5. Number of students who speak with financial aid counselors about running out of money before the end of the semester

  6. Percentage of students able to meet month-to-month financial obligations

  7. Number of students working part-time while in school

  8. Number of students working full-time while in school

  9. Percentage of students taking advantage of work-study and scholarship programs

  10. Tuition delinquency rate

Measuring College-Specific Data

Colleges should also look at data specific to their school. This includes such things as student satisfaction and engagement. 

The school should also look at student loan data. With student loan debt growing to $1.71 trillion with 44.7 million Americans owing on student loans4, colleges need to help students understand how student debt works from interest rates to the number of years a student will hold that debt. 

Related article: iGrad Launches Debt Letter Initiative as Part of Student Financial Wellness Program

Student Satisfaction and Engagement

  1. Student satisfaction with school

  2. Student's perception of school

  3. Student retention rate of school

  4. Graduation rate of school

  5. Number of student absences

  6. Number of dropped classes

  7. Percentage of students who drop from full-time to part-time

Student Loans

  1. Student loan delinquency rate

  2. Student loan default rate

  3. Percentage of students who drop out with student loans

  4. Percentage of students with student loans

  5. Number of student loan repayment questions directed to the Financial Aid Office

Related whitepaper: Diplomas, Debt & Default

Measuring Program-Specific Data

Finally, institutes of higher education should look at how satisfied students are with the financial wellness program.

Data for this section will be both self-reported student information and statistics from the program on engagement and usage.

Engagement and usage are different concepts. Engagement looks at how, when, and how often students engage with the financial wellness program. Usage looks at how many students use the program.

These numbers fluctuate depending on the school’s commitment to helping students become financially well, incentives provided to use the program, and communication about the program to students

Student Satisfaction

  1. Overall financial wellness program satisfaction

  2. Satisfaction with financial wellness courses offered

  3. Satisfaction with how financial wellness courses are delivered

Student Engagement

  1. Pageviews per visit

  2. Average time per visit

  3. How often do students use the program

  4. Course completions

  5. Growth in program users

  6. Percent of students who respond to promotional materials

Student Usage 

  1. Total program registrations

  2. Percentage of the population registered 

  3. Return logins

Your financial wellness program should be able to provide you with data in each of these areas.

In addition, you can add your own data by asking for student responses through surveys at the end of each semester/year.

Armed with this data, your school can feel confident that they are helping their students reduce financial stress and increase financial health.


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