How universities can ease students' financial and budgeting anxieties

Going to university can be a big financial commitment, particularly for students who decide to study abroad. 

Unfortunately, thousands of pupils don’t follow their higher-education dreams because they believe it’s too expensive or they’ll end up in debt. But, by offering sound financial and budgeting advice, your university can help to alleviate these concerns. 

In February 2021, Studee President Jihna Gavilanes was joined by Vivi Friedgut, founder and CEO of *Blackbullion, an online education platform that helps students become money-smart.

In their webinar - ‘How to ease students’ financial and budgeting anxieties’ - they discussed the importance of financial education and its influence on student recruitment, retention, and attainment. 

They also shared the results of Studee’s survey of over 2,000 international students. Conducted in January 2021, the survey drew attention to pupils’ main financial concerns and the support they’d like from their institutions.

 

We’re experts at helping universities across the world boost their international admissions rates. Each day, we speak to hundreds of pupils, match them to the admissions criteria of our partner institutions, and support them all the way to enrollment. 

If you want a pipeline of ready-to-enroll students, without any upfront fees, then book a free, non-obligatory meeting now. It’ll only take 20 minutes but it could protect the diversity of your campus for years to come. 

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Finance and Gen Z

Financial security and success are extremely important to Gen Z students. The financial crisis of 2008 defined this generation, so they want to avoid money-related issues at all costs. 

However, today’s digital world isn’t always conducive to financial stability. Online gambling, cryptocurrency, and ‘buy now, pay later’ deals mean catastrophic debt can occur at the touch of a button. 

The latest batch of university students is crying out for financial education. Our survey revealed a staggering 93.2% of respondents would like support with planning their finances before they left for university. So, helping students take control of their money should be a top priority for any successful institution. 

Reframing the conversation around finance is vital; you need to convince students that attending your university is a savvy decision.  As Vivi stated, “it’s not spending money. It’s not debt. It’s an investment in your future prospects”. 

If your university wants to engage with more students, you must satisfy their appetite for financial education. Vivi explained: “young people need and want direction, and who better to get it from than an institution they already trust?”. 

The role of financial education in student recruitment 

Incorporating financial education into your recruitment efforts will make your university stand out.

Our research revealed that an overwhelming 84.4% of international students would find a university more appealing if they offered support with budgeting and finance. 

Students no longer choose a university based purely on rankings. Instead, they want an institution that will value them and work hard to support their wellbeing. Since financial security is a core component of overall wellbeing, the power of offering budgeting advice cannot be underestimated. 

Vivi recommended that financial education is “woven into all parts of the recruitment process”, from outlining the true cost of studying at your institution, to suggesting budgeting tools and offering one-to-one advice. Any actions you can take to help students successfully manage their money is sure to pay off. 

The role of financial education in student retention

Money is the number one reason students drop out, so the correlation between financial wellbeing and retention couldn’t be clearer. 

Although students may provide other reasons for quitting their studies, like ‘I’m not enjoying my course’ or ‘I’m struggling in class’, these are typically extensions of a more deep-seated monetary problem. 

If students haven’t effectively budgeted for their student lifestyle, they may be forced to work alongside their classes. They might have to miss lectures or work late at night, both of which could hamper their academic success. 

Being upfront and honest about the costs of your campus will help students make more informed decisions when choosing a university. What’s more, it’ll promote a sense of trust and prevent them from spiraling into financial difficulty once they arrive. 

If students have firm financial foundations in place, they’re significantly more likely to remain on campus and finish their program.

What are students’ most common concerns? 

Financial anxiety at university is extremely widespread. In fact, 89.6% of students said they frequently or sometimes had money-related worries while studying abroad. 

Although financial concerns are unique to every student, some common themes emerge. For instance, 49.7% worried about having to ask their family for money, while 42.3% were concerned about not being able to afford rent. Concerns about not being able to afford socializing and food were less prominent but still featured.

Money concerns affect every aspect of a student’s life; from mental health and academic attainment, to physical wellbeing and relationships. Alarmingly, *Blackbullion’s debt advice pages receive an enormous amount of student traffic between the hours of 12 am and 5 am. As more students lose sleep over their financial stability, universities must take action. 

What support should you provide? 

To provide the most effective financial education package, you need to listen to the preferences of students. These were the most popular types of support according to our respondents:

  • Financial tips and guides via email 

  • One-to-one meetings with student services 

  • Short courses in financial education 

Students also liked the idea of online articles, regular workshops, and financial education sessions as part of their university induction. 

Peer support programs are another great way to encourage discussions around finance. Student mentors are trained to share their experiences with fellow pupils in a casual setting, so they feel comfortable enough to open up and seek further help if necessary.

By bringing finance into more conversations across campus, you’ll help to remove any stigma attached to it. 

Helping graduates take control of their financial future

Students attend university to better themselves and their career prospects, so you have a responsibility to prepare them for life after graduation. 

As graduation approaches, it’s important to highlight the issues that will become more relevant as pupils enter the professional world. For instance, graduates might need to know how to read a payslip, calculate tax, understand national insurance, or repay their student loans. This is particularly true for international pupils, many of whom are unfamiliar with the financial laws and procedures of their host country. 

Helping students get ready for the next step of their journey and providing them with timely resources will prevent them from falling into difficulty later down the line.

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