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Report Correlates Attitudes And Risky Financial Behaviors Among First-Year College Students Across U.S., Highlights Institutional Impact

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A new report detailing the findings from a survey of 40,000 first-year college students from across the U.S. demonstrates to colleges and universities how student financial problems not only impact individual student outcomes but also the institutional mission.

Money Matters on Campus: How Early Attitudes and Behaviors Affect the Financial Decisions of First-Year College Students identified first-year college students’ attitudes towards debt as well as related financial behaviors to determine what role each plays in student financial outcomes.

The study—conducted by EverFi and sponsored by Higher One—surveyed students on banking, savings, credit cards and school loans. The majority of participants (91.2 percent) were first-year college students (mean age = 18.2 years). One of the many survey findings revealed a strong correlation between incurring early debt and not being affiliated with a banking institution. Further, an increased risk of negative financially related outcomes, as students and later in life, was correlated with current risky financial attitudes/behaviors.

Money Matters on Campus is unique because it offers specific student attitudes and behaviors on which educators and policy makers must focus and address. This report sounds the alarm that institutions must augment current financial literacy education,” said Mary Johnson, Director of Financial Literacy and Student Aid Policy at Higher One. “We need to ensure students entering into college are given the right financial literacy education, tools and support to make sound financial decisions while in college and beyond.”

Traditional financial literacy education focuses primarily on providing simple financial knowledge and reactionary tools, without accounting for a student’s individual attitudes, motivation and behaviors. Money Matters on Campus details the need for a new, proactive approach to financial literacy education based on identified existing attitudes and behaviors.

“Colleges and universities—especially those enrolling greater numbers of first-generation students than ever before—have an obligation to improve financial literacy and increase positive financial outcomes for our students,” said Steven Bahls, President of Augustana College in Illinois. “As leaders concerned with transparency, accountability and access, our primary and time-honored concerns are to educate the whole person, which must include students’ financial health.”

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