Study after study has shown that students are suffering from financial stress with stressors from paying for tuition to meeting monthly expenses.

One Ohio State University study found that 70 percent of college students experience financial stress.1 Another study shows that 1 in 3 millennials have a PTSD-like condition known as Acute Financial Stress (AFS).2

Educational institutions understand how this kind of financial stress affects both students and their ability to stay in school and have begun offering financial wellness programs to their students.

However, many schools find that their students do not use the program, or if they do use, do not use it consistently.

Here are six reasons this may be happening.

1. Lack of a Needs Assessment

Financial wellness programs are only successful if they provide information, education, and tools that students want.

If the program provides only general information without worrying about specific student needs, it is likely to fail. In fact, one study showed that every successful financial wellness program began with a needs assessment.3

With a needs assessment, you can determine:

  • Student needs
  • Student wants
  • Timing of needs and wants
  • Best way to deliver the information

Once you have assessed your students, you can find the program that will be the most beneficial to them.

For more information on developing an effective needs assessment survey, read:

2. Lack of Communication

Students may not know that the university offers a financial wellness program. Unfortunately, they cannot use it if they don’t know it exists.

You will want to promote your financial wellness program so your students know where to go to learn more about financial matters.

Here are some best practices for communicating with students about the plan:

  • Add messages about financial wellness to all current student communications such as texts, emails, and newsletters.
  • Make sure what you say doesn’t look like an advertisement for a financial product. Advertising gets ignored.
  • Personalized communications work better than an email that starts out with “Dear Students.”
  • Make sure all student advisors (educational, financial, and even health) know about the financial wellness program and provide information to students.

The more consistent you are, the more successful you will be.

For more information on developing a successful financial wellness promotion strategy, read:

3. Lack of Incentives

Students are busy with school, work, and socializing. They find it difficult to manage their new adult responsibilities, and even more difficult to start new financial habits, especially if they don’t realize the benefits of doing so.

Offering incentives gives students a benefit they recognize and can get them to participate in healthy financial behaviors.

When starting a new behavior, most people do not have the internal motivation to get started because they don’t understand the benefits they will get from doing so.

Incentives often help break past this barrier and can get your employees to act.

Incentives can either be benefits-based or outcomes-based.

Benefits-based incentives are given to students who participate in specified program tasks. This can be money, awards, or even a name in a drawing. Consider giving such an incentive for students who enroll in the program or complete a class.

Outcome-based incentives give rewards to students who engage in healthy financial behaviors. These are often given in points that can be redeemed at the end of a semester or school year. Healthy financial behaviors to reward might be creating a budget, starting a savings account, or paying bills on time.

To learn more about how colleges are using incentives for their financial wellness programs, read:

4. Lack of Immediate Need

In general, students will seek financial information only when they need it.

Perhaps it is when making an important financial decision like whether to take out a student loan, when in a financial crisis such as not having enough money to meet the month’s expenses, or during a major life event like a graduation.

Having a flexible and individualized program will help students when they have a need.

Additionally, you might want to consider using your financial wellness program for student drop-out interventions such as delinquent tuition and academic probation.

These issues are often correlated with financial stress, which causes students to:

  • Neglect homework (33 percent)
  • Cut back on class load (30 percent)
  • Drop out (16 percent)

Offering classes to help them with their stress and get them back on track is a win-win scenario.

For more information on getting more traction with your financial wellness program, check out:

5. Lack of Gamification

Traditional college students, and a large portion of students who have come back to college, have never known a world without video games.

In fact of those 13 to 17, 81 percent have access to and use a gaming console.4 Of those 18 to 29, 67 percent play video games.

Finding ways to add game-type qualities to financial wellness platforms encourages students to participate.

One study shows that people are more likely to pay attention to daily living activities if they feel more game-like and participation in these activities increases 100 percent or more when gamification is added.5

What’s more, according to a study by the University of Colorado6, when gamification is added, students:

  • Gain more skills +14 percent
  • Increase knowledge +11 percent
  • Increase retention +9 percent

Gamification can include such things as:

  • Quests
  • Challenges
  • Leaderboards
  • Badges
  • Avatars
  • Leveling
  • Points
  • Progression bars
  • Collectibles
  • Bonuses
  • Power-ups

6. Lack of Compelling Components

In addition to gamification, students want other compelling components. They spend all day in lectures and will be less likely to sit through another on financial wellness.

Here are some engaging components offered by iGrad.

Financial Behavior Analysis

Since personality influences financial decision-making, iGrad has created a financial wellness assessment that determines a money personality and then recommends changes based on that personality.

Each student will learn their money personality, their dominant traits, their financial strengths and challenges.

Interactive Budgeting Tool

Budgeting is essential for students to determine not only where they currently spend their money, but how they wish to do so.

Our interactive budgeting tool does just that, providing opportunities to add income, increase savings, and add goals.

Because the information saves from session to session, students have the ability to make changes to their budget throughout the year.

Student Loan Tool

Student loan debt is an American crisis. Currently, the total US student loan debt has reached $1.52 trillion, while the average student owes slightly more than $30,000 upon graduation.7 

With an average monthly payment of $393, it takes most students between 10 and 30 years to pay off their loans. Unfortunately, 66 percent of student borrowers don’t understand their loans and 40 percent never receive any student loan counseling.8 

iGrad’s Student Loan Snapshot Tool will help students understand how much they owe, whether taking a particular student loan makes sense, and the best way to repay the loans.

Social or Peer-to-Peer Tools

Students are more likely to trust peers when it comes to financial information. Based on gathered data, students who use the peer-to-peer tool increase their scores on assessment, as well as increase their program and content use.

Following these guidelines can help you see an improvement in your financial wellness program’s participation rate.

To learn more about how the iGrad Financial Wellness Program can help your organization, request a demo here or use the button below to watch our demo video.

Watch the demo video 



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