2019 was the year when the conversation around finances shifted for good. Across the media, in social networks and communities, we’ve seen the last taboo of talking openly about money, chipped away.
As someone who’s been on a mission to transform students’ relationships with finances since 2014, this movement is very welcome. I still believe for those of us in higher education, there’s scope to go further – especially at a time when the chatter about the value of university is getting louder.
Looking into 2020, as financial education strategies become more sophisticated, how can universities ensure they adequately and holistically support students’ path to, and through, university? Here’s how future-focused partners are developing robust financial education programmes:
Take a whole institution approach
With time comes sophistication, and, working with our university partners we’re increasingly seeing financial education deliver on its full potential when a whole institution approach is taken.
Financial education and wellbeing isn’t a stand-alone. We know money anxiety to be a major trigger for mental health challenges, which in turn impacts student performance and their personal lives: students are most likely to experience stress or anxiety (51%) and a significant proportion will have difficulty sleeping (27%), experience panic attacks (9%) or turn to alcohol to cope. The more we understand that financial education underpins the entire student experience, the more we can make it available across every touch point.
In our State of Financial Capability Report (September 2019) we found the majority of respondents (a diverse mix of 20 UK universities) would like to see financial capability become part of the core curriculum. Ahead of this, a starting point for 2020 is for universities to integrate their financial education and support with other departments – from wellbeing and careers through to international students – operating as an integrated strategy that supports student wellbeing holistically.
Look at the whole student lifecycle
Our research shows that the student groups most in need of developing financial capability are younger (prospective and first year students) and/or without strong family support (care leavers, first in family cohorts). While resources must be invested in this cohort, truly impactful financial education programmes will take account of the whole student lifecycle.
Going back to our Financial Capability report, respondents identified a lack of priority placed on second year students in particular. In fact, just 25% of universities focused on providing any support to this group, the ‘abandoned middle child’, despite this being a time of major transition as students often move into private accommodation, take on more household expenses, sometimes preparing for their third year in industry or overseas which can result in more debt.
We want students to think about life beyond university too; it goes without saying that the more prepared you are, the easier the transition. Future focused financial education strategies will look at the full student lifecycle and experience.
Proactive trumps reactive - every time
Successful financial education means embedding learning into different student touchpoints; evidence shows this creates the most impact and shifts student mindsets through a ‘just-in-time’ approach. Robust programmes are those that are building proactive pathways, ensuring resources are in place before crisis hits, and supporting wider objectives to reduce hardship and emergency loan payments.
One-on-one support, budgeting and financial capability workshops, run alongside welcome week sessions and awareness campaigns work well but for many partners looking ahead, a more scalable resource is required to broaden strategic reach.
We work with universities every day, seeking out ways to innovate in their financial education delivery, integrating it into the core of student learning and skill sets. More and more, we’re seeing great results from a multi-layered approach that develops both student financial literacy skills and provides financial support. Moving into 2020 and beyond, we collectively need to look at ensuring financial education is given the visibility it needs to enhance individual student experiences, integrating wellbeing with learning, and empowering young people with the skills they need to design their lives on their terms.
Vivi Friedgut is founder of Blackbullion, the award winning EdTech startup, transforming students’ lives through financial literacy