A recent study (fall 2019) of 38,000 undergraduate students conducted by Trellis, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on student finances, reveals telling data about students’ concerns about their student debt:
- Only 21 percent of respondents could correctly answer three financial knowledge questions relating to loan terms, interest rates, and repayment options. (2018 report)
- 70 percent of students at 4-year institutions say they worry about having enough money to pay for school.
- 73 percent of respondents at 4-year institutions who borrowed a student loan were less than confident they would be able to pay off their student debt.
The students of the University of North Carolina Charlotte are making financial decisions daily that will carry with them lasting financial implications. A majority of these decisions are being made with a lack of knowledge, skills, or behavioral capacity needed to ensure financial security and well-being. UNC Charlotte is not alone in facing the challenges associated with financial literacy and well-being attainment. Universities across the nation have started to explore opportunities and best practices to ensure not only the academic success of their students but also their long-term financial well-being. In congruence with the University mission, it is vital to address student financial literacy and well-being.
Addressing both financial literacy and financial well-being at institutions of higher education, and in the workforce education sphere, has become a recent focus of effort. The overall “financial literacy” effort that has been in development and deployment for the last two decades carried with it a heightened focus on the knowledge-based content of financial education. A participant would take a class, attend a workshop, or read a book and then be tested on the knowledge acquired, retained, and remembered. This education, although important, showed minimal increases in overall levels of financial literacy, and even less impact on financial behaviors. The advent of the behavioral finance and financial psychology movement created a researched and validated emphasis on the development of financial well-being. Financial well-being is a larger conceptual construct that includes financial literacy education, but also incorporates programming aimed at motivation, experience, attitudes, emotions, cultural context, opportunities, and the larger social and economic environment. Financial well-being attainment allows for control over day to day finances, freedom to make choices to enjoy life, the capacity to absorb financial shock, and being on track to meet financial goals.
 “Effective Financial Education: Five Principles and How to Use Them”, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, June 2017, available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201706_cfpb_five-principles-financial-wellbeing.pdf.