Financial literacy is an essential life skill for students. Colleges and universities that offer comprehensive financial literacy programs are providing their students with valuable information for life-long personal finance management. The list of benefits is long, from financial stability to higher graduation rates.1
As a financial aid director, you have a key role in not only providing students with financial literacy education but also monitoring if your college’s program is driving results or not. In this guide, we will provide actionable tips on how you can evaluate and measure the success of your college’s financial literacy program.
Identify Your Objectives
It's important to set specific objectives and goals when evaluating the effectiveness of your institution’s college financial literacy program. Since each school (and student) has distinct needs, objectives may vary from institution to institution.
Some common goals could include improving student loan repayment rates, ensuring secure credit histories, and gaining a better understanding of budgeting and saving principles.
The best way to choose appropriate objectives is by working closely with educators, enrollment officers, and financial aid advisors to understand the needs of your students.
Get a better idea of what they need to ensure student success by evaluating student surveys, industry trends, and peer-reviewed research. This is a great first step in the process of setting objectives for your college’s financial literacy program.
Collect and Analyze Data
Data is key to understanding the success or failure of any program. Start collecting data on how students are performing with general topics like student loan repayment and credit use as well as more specific topics like traditional versus non-traditional savings methods or budgeting principles like cash flow management.
The goal should be to collect more than just numbers – dive deeper into understanding why results may have gone in a certain direction through unstructured interviews or an informal focus group discussion with past participants. Ask questions about what material resonated most, which resource they found most helpful, etc.
For example, do your students feel prepared for their financial responsibilities post-college? According to Ohio State University, many college students overestimate their financial knowledge – it may be wise to assess where students were when they enrolled, where they are presently, and how much the program has helped.2
Establish Baseline Outcomes and Tracking
From the data collected, establish benchmarks. The benchmarks will serve as a baseline against which you can measure future performance. Establishing these targets is an essential part of evaluating your college's financial literacy program.
This is so progress can be tracked, results measured, and successes celebrated over time. It also allows you to prove to other stakeholders how valuable the program has been in educating students on financial topics.
You should also consider periodically assessing student participation, outcomes achieved, and completion rates relative to the objectives set. Consistently track progress over time by analyzing the ratings and feedback from each session offered, and utilize those findings against academic success metrics you’ve set.
Evaluate Long-Term Impact
The challenge when evaluating a college’s financial literacy programs lies in understanding its long-term impacts on those who participate in them.
Measuring short-term results are a great indicator of understanding the effectiveness of delivery, as well as informing where to make future improvements and who should be targeted. However, understanding the lasting impact on participants is what will really make the difference.
Look at graduates or alumni six months beyond graduation – how has their understanding of financial literacy topics enabled them to achieve greater economic success?
As a long-term impact measure, consider surveying students and alumni 5-10 years after graduating from college. How has their knowledge impacted larger life decisions, finances, and career paths?
With over 44.7 million Americans owing nearly $1.71 trillion in student loans, it's critical that college students learn and apply financial literacy topics in their daily lives.3 By creating detailed surveys with these questions in mind, you'll better understand the real-world application of your institution’s financial literacy program.
Create an Action Plan
Evaluating your college's financial literacy program requires engaging both internal stakeholders – like administrators or career counselors – as well as outside industry experts or organizations who can lend more insight into best practices.
Ultimately though, it should feel manageable. One great method you could try out would be setting up separate committees such as advising groups. These teams could feature people from different departments in order to capture institutional objectives better than individual project management alone.
In addition, create periodic check-ins through student surveys & anonymous student feedback forums to further enhance the effectiveness of the financial literacy programs for learners. Remember, the objective is to help the learners both in the immediate future and in life in general.
Integrate With iGrad’s Financial Wellness Platform
Evaluating the financial literacy program is not a one-off exercise. It's important to continuously track progress over time to ensure student success – as well as regularly communicate with educators, financial aid advisors, and the students themselves.
To facilitate this, we recommend integrating iGrad’s Financial Wellness platform into your college program for the ultimate data-led insights.
The platform provides an innovative curriculum in the classroom to ensure students are leaving campus with the necessary and realistic financial literacy knowledge.
To assist with individual counseling, iGrad's Financial Wellness platform also offers video-based entrance and exit counseling for your college’s students.
With such a comprehensive program in place, you have the necessary tools to set objectives and evaluate the success of your college’s financial literacy program.
1 - https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/diss/140/
2 - https://connect.springerpub.com/content/sgrjfcp/33/2/205
3 - https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g19/current/default.htm