Are you considering offering a financial wellness program to your students, but haven’t yet taken the leap? Then consider these facts:

  • Only 10% of states effectively produce financially literate high school graduates1, which means incoming freshman have little to no idea about financial issues.
  • 70% of college students feel stressed about personal finances
  • 50% worry about day-to-day expenses
  • 33% of students do not do homework due to financial worries
  • 30% reduce their class load due to debt
  • 16% stop taking classes altogether2

Students want to be financially fit and appreciate the opportunity to receive financial wellness education. When Sallie Mae and Ipsos surveyed college students in “Majoring in Money: How American College Students Manage Their Finances,”3 they found that 83% of students want to learn more about financial topics. However, not any financial wellness plan will do. Your school must first found out what your students want and need so that the program you offer can address their concerns. 

Why is a needs assessment important?

A recent study4 about benefit plans offered by organizations showed that conducting a needs assessment is a strong indicator of a successful program. However, a needs assessment is often overlooked and is one of the three critical elements in a financial wellness program that most organizations overlook (See the full article detailing all three elements here).  In fact, of the unsuccessful programs evaluated, not one had started with a needs assessment. 

The best way to determine what your students need is to ask them by conducting a needs assessment. This is simply a set of questions that will help you identify the needs of your students as a whole so that you can focus your financial wellness program on the most important items and those with the most impact.

In addition to learning in-depth about what your students need, you can also:

  • Find out about needs you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. For instance, most organizations understand a student’s need to understand student loans, but on the national level, 37% of students want to learn about saving strategies5.
  • Document the needs of your specific students rather than relying on national studies of students. The IFEBP survey6 shows that many organizations rely on generic information aimed at generic groups resulting in low participation. 
  • Take actions that are in line with what your students need so you both reap the rewards. Since 60% of college dropouts7 are paying their own way through school, teaching them strong financial decisions can help decrease your institution’s dropout rate.

What to Include in an Assessment

The point of a financial wellness assessment is to determine the wants and needs for your financial wellness program. So, getting at those wants and needs is very important. To do this, you need to ask both objective and subjective questions.

Objective questions include financial measures such as:

  • Do you have a credit card? If so, how much credit card debt do you have?
  • Do you have student loans? If so, how much have you borrowed and at what rate?
  • Do you have an emergency savings plan? If so, how much have you saved? 
  • What is your current credit score?
  • Do you create and live by a budget?
  • And more

Subjective measures include things like:

  • Self-reported financial stress levels
  • How does the student feel about savings? Spending?
  • What does financial wellness mean to them?
  • How confident are they in making financial decisions?
  • And more

Financial wellness surveys should also include at least one open-ended question that allows students to state what they want and need the most help with. 

Keep in mind that you will get better results if the survey is done online and is anonymous because your students are more likely to be honest and objective. However, it is important that your survey classifies respondents into groups such as grads vs. undergrads, traditional student vs. adult returning student, or full-time vs. part-time student. Without this understanding, the answers you receive may not help you determine what your students really need and at which levels.

Understanding What You Find

Once you have your student’s answers, it is time to determine if your organization’s goals for the financial wellness initiative support your students’ goals. Of course, the overarching goal of any financial wellness program is to increase student financial health.

However, your organization needs to have both short-term and long-term goals that are specific and measurable. These goals need to help students balance current stressors such as student loans with future needs such as retirement savings. By doing so, you can create organizational goals that meet the goals of the students you wish to serve. This will create a program that works.

>>For more information on how iGrad leverages user feedback to personalize the financial wellness learning experience for students, watch our demo video here.

1 2017 National Report Card on State Efforts to Improve Financial Literacy in High Schools

2 Ohio Student Financial Wellness Survey

3 Majoring in Money: How American College Students Manage Their Finances

4 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans - Financial Education for Today's Workforce: 2016 Survey

5 Majoring in Money: How American College Students Manage Their Finances

6 International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans - Financial Education for Today's Workforce: 2016 Survey

7 Student Loans, Financial Stress, and College Student Retention