Financially Literate? Compare Yourself to These Stats!

Professionals from colleges all over America dedicated to building financial literacy amongst students on their campuses gathered at Ohio State University this week.  The National Summit on Financial Wellness, organized by Ohio State University and Indiana University, was a huge success if not ground breaking.

Attending were professionals dedicated to raising financial acumen with college students.  This is absolutely necessary because students are in the midst of big financial issues:

  • Funding and financing their college career
  • Entering the workforce ready to navigate over the course of their career into financial independence

There were nearly 200 professionals from 103 colleges in 34 states.  This is a growing and essential movement coming from:

  • Financial aid offices
  • Career centers
  • Financial literacy and education offices
  • Service providers
  • Government representatives

They came to share research, best practices, and network with the common goal of helping college students.

I was fortunate to attend, and I want to share some stats and facts I gleaned from the conference:

  • The American population at large:
    • 41% spend less than they make
    • 35% break even
    • 19% spend more than they make
    • Source:  Peter Dunn (author, radio host, and TV personality)
  • Indiana University began a program that showed students at the point of borrowing what their total loan balance would now be and also what their payment would be post-graduation.  By making students aware of their debt position, it reduced borrowing by $31m.
  • In a single generation, the US has fallen from #1 to #12 in the college graduation rates on the world stage
  • College graduation rate is 40% (and I know from my research that it is 60% for students over 6 years)
    • Students who take 6 years vs. 4 years for their bachelors degree, double their debt
    • The worst hit students are those who begin college but leave without a degree (40%)
    • 30% of students with loans drop out without a degree
  • By 2012, 2/3 of all jobs will require post-secondary education of some sort (
  • Two reasons students leave college without a degree according to Chief Academic Officers are:  
    • Lack of academic preparedness, and 
    • Lack of money
  • The Gates Foundation reports:
    • 58% of students did not have help from relatives for college funding
    • 69% had no scholarships or financial aid
  • Student loans are up 511% since 1999
    • While disposable income has grown by just 73% over the same period
  • Students who had high school personal finance education were:
    • More responsible with loans and credit
    • More financially cautious
    • Less accepting of debt as a necessity
    • Less fixated on possessions
    • More adverse to incurring debt
    • However, only 17 states require personal finance courses in high school
  • 52% of actual college expenses had nothing to do with tuition, therefore many underestimate the cost of college going in by focusing mostly on tuition costs
  • According to Dr. Neil D. Theobald, President, Temple University:
    • Students who worked a moderate amount of hours (15 hours a week or less) do better than students who do not work at all:
          • Less debt
          • Higher GPA
          • More likely to graduate on time
    • Student debt in America is sitting at just over $1 trillion now but is likely to double to $2 trillion by the end of this decade
  • 73% of Millennials believe personal finance should be taught in college but I heard again and again that if the course was not required, it was a struggle to get ample attendance

Increasing student financial acumen is essential for all college students.  Both for how they manage the campus financial years and their early career.

Students must seek this education.

Colleges and universities need to offer it.  With 4,599 two-year and four-year institutions in America and but ~103 attending this conference, it seems we have a way to go.