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
Percentage increase in students creating a budget
Percentage increase of students using a budget yearly/quarterly/monthly/weekly/daily
Percentage increase in students checking account balances at least monthly
Percentage increase in students paying bills on time
Percentage increase of students planning their discretionary spending
Student Saving Behaviors
Percentage increase of students with an emergency savings account
Percentage increase of emergency savings balance equal to or greater than three months of income
Percentage increase of students on track for other savings goals
Student Credit and Debt Behaviors
Percentage increase of students paying credit card in full each month
Percentage decrease in average credit card balance
Percentage increase in average credit score
Student Loan Behaviors
Percentage decrease of average student loan balance
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
Overall student financial knowledge
Financial knowledge by grade
Financial knowledge by age
Financial knowledge by major
Financial knowledge gain
Overall student financial confidence
Financial confidence by grade
Financial confidence by age
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
Overall student financial stress
Financial stress by grade
Financial stress by age
Financial stress by major
Number of hours spent neglecting schoolwork to focus on financial worries
Number of hours spent on financial worries by grade
Number of hours spent on financial worries by age
Number of hours spent on financial worries by major
Percentage of students using campus health and mental health services for stress-related illnesses
Student Financial Health
Percentage of students able to meet month-to-month financial obligations
Number of students needing emergency grants/loans
Average amount of emergency grants/loans
Number of students using other campus financial emergency services
Number of students who speak with financial aid counselors about running out of money before the end of the semester
Percentage of students able to meet month-to-month financial obligations
Number of students working part-time while in school
Number of students working full-time while in school
Percentage of students taking advantage of work-study and scholarship programs
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
Student satisfaction with school
Student's perception of school
Student retention rate of school
Graduation rate of school
Number of student absences
Number of dropped classes
Percentage of students who drop from full-time to part-time
Student loan delinquency rate
Student loan default rate
Percentage of students who drop out with student loans
Percentage of students with student loans
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.
Overall financial wellness program satisfaction
Satisfaction with financial wellness courses offered
Satisfaction with how financial wellness courses are delivered
Pageviews per visit
Average time per visit
How often do students use the program
Growth in program users
Percent of students who respond to promotional materials
Total program registrations
Percentage of the population registered
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.
1 - https://newprairiepress.org/jft/vol5/iss1/3/
2 - https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/20503121211018122#abstract
4 - https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g19/current/default.htm