Higher ED on the Hook for Financial ED

College Students Appeal for Trusted Resources

Date: May 12, 2011

Contact: Paul Golden 303-224-3514, [email protected]

DENVER—This spring’s college graduates have studied through the recession, but it has taken a toll on both their finances and their families’ finances and shaken their trust in financial institutions. Yet, the silver lining is that more college students are recognizing the importance of personal finance know-how, and they are seeking reliable resources for establishing or building real-life money management skills.

Recent research from the University of Arizona and the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) shows college students’ self-reported knowledge of personal finance topics declined by 19 percent during the recession between April 2008 and February 2009, even though their actual knowledge increased during that same time period. The research also reveals that students’ schools are the institutions they trust most to help increase their knowledge of personal finance—more so than the government, financial services and the press.

We’re seeing a decline in confidence among college students and that is a disturbing trend," says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. "The recession has heightened the need for financial education for many Americans and has led people to search for help from sources they can trust. One of the best places for college students to receive reliable financial information is from the institutions they already trust to educate them."

Through CashCourse, colleges and universities are meeting that demand; more than 550 of them now offer the free comprehensive program created by NEFE.

No Strings Attached

CashCourse teaches college students financial basics, such as saving, investing, budgeting and debt "in a way they can understand and appreciate," says Beck. Colleges and universities that enroll in CashCourse can customize the online resource, which features articles, quizzes, calculators and budgeting tools. Once a school is enrolled, CashCourse is available for students to access directly 24/7, because their questions don’t always arise during office hours.

CashCourse is a great system for college students to use because it’s really relatable," says Sara Glabien, a junior at New York’s Paul Smith’s College, one school that is using CashCourse. "It’s easy to find information on pretty much everything. It even goes into the economy, so you can understand what’s going on in the real world and how that affects you and your parents."

From 2009-2010, the number of schools using CashCourse increased by 61 percent, while traffic to the schools’ sites collectively increased by 78 percent. A wide range of campus departments are using CashCourse, from financial aid and career services to student life and alumni associations.

Additionally, more than a quarter of the schools using CashCourse are focused on challenged students being serviced by the Federal TRiO programs. TRiO programs, which often reside on campuses under the moniker student support services, use federal funds under the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) to provide academic support to low-income and first-generation students and students with disabilities. HEOA-required academic support now includes information on financial topics such as budgeting, money management and credit, which is the motivation for more than 120 TRiO programs having turned to CashCourse.

Courtney Walton, academic skills coordinator in the student support services office of Paul Smith’s College, learned about CashCourse in 2008.

At the time, we didn’t really have a budget to provide financial literacy," Walton says. "CashCourse has been very effective in terms of teaching our students financial literacy, budgeting, using credit cards, banking and things like that."

That CashCourse is free makes it completely accessible for programs with tight budget restrictions. For Walton and her colleagues, the typical alternative is a bank-sponsored financial education program, which some schools might be wary of endorsing.

Filling the Gap

The participation of schools in CashCourse suggests that higher education has, on the whole, started adding more resources to meet students’ desire for financial knowledge. In many cases, personal finance resources materialize as classes.

I believe there is a greater demand for personal finance courses offered in colleges," says Jodi Cataline, clinical assistant professor in the college of business at Drexel University, a CashCourse provider since February 2008.

But for some campuses, offering curricula isn’t enough. Cataline teaches an elective class called Individual Financial Strategy, which always fills up on the first day of registration. While good news for business students, it leaves many other Drexel students out of the loop.

Not all students at a university will have access to or be able to take a personal finance class," says Amy Hartenstine, director of CashCourse. "We want students to have access to this information at all times, which is why we’re glad Drexel and hundreds of other schools offer CashCourse in addition to curricula."

Support for Life After College

The University of Arizona research suggests students struggle with finances throughout their years in college and after. Wave 1.5 of the study of more than 2,000 students finds that outstanding education loan balances have risen 86 percent among students, and credit card balances not paid in full each month have risen 60 percent.

The job market for 2011 graduates, however, appears to be improving. Average salary offers have increased 5.9 percent to $50,462, compared to $47,673 in spring 2010, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Furthermore, hiring of new graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees is expected to surge 10 percent this year over 2010, according to the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University. Yet the national unemployment rate stands at 9 percent and many college graduates will leave school weighed down by debt from student loans and credit cards.

That’s where a resource like CashCourse comes in handy," says Hartenstine. "If schools offer financial education that not only helps current students, but also reaches out to recent graduates, they might find their alumni having greater success navigating the job market and their finances."

About CashCourse

CashCourse was launched in 2007 by NEFE and is available free to all public and private nonprofit colleges and universities in the U.S. CashCourse content is unbiased and free of advertising. For more information, visit www.cashcourse.org.

About Arizona Pathways to Life Success in University Students (APLUS)

The landmark University of Arizona study examines financial attitudes and behaviors—and the forces that drive them—in college students ages 18-25. Soyeon Shim, Ph.D., director of the John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, is the study’s principal investigator. APLUS launched in the spring of 2008, collecting information from more than 2,000 students, whom researchers will follow and survey during the next several years. For more, click here.


  • Paul Golden

    Media Relations Director

    Direct: 303-224-3514
    Cell: 303-918-3620
    [email protected]