Measuring the Results of Financial Literacy Programs
Sara Wilson​By Sara Wilson, Financial Literacy Product Manager

There’s no debate that financial education is important to the success of today’s college students. The financial aid community embraced this idea years ago as a means to help prevent student loan default. As a result hundreds — if not thousands — of financial literacy programs emerged.

And many of those financial literacy programs began as grassroots initiatives that postsecondary institutions developed for their students.

Considering the impact that mismanaged finances can have on a student’s ability to complete postsecondary training, it’s no surprise that many schools now are taking a campuswide approach to financial literacy. In addition to counseling student loan borrowers, these multifaceted initiatives integrate financial education into new-student orientation programs, student success/retention initiatives, and academic course curricula.

You can read about how more than 20 colleges and universities have provided financial education in the Teachable Moments for Personal Finance Education best practices guide for USA Funds®’ financial literacy and student success program, USA Funds Life Skills®.

Getting results

The big question, however, is: How do you know financial education works? As with any type of training, repeated exposure to the information is more likely to have a lasting effect on the learner. To address this point, schools now also are focusing on grade-level strategies for their financial literacy initiatives.

The challenge is measuring whether these financial training interventions are achieving the desired impact. To gain support and buy-in for your efforts at the institution level, there must be some level of certainty that the efforts will be worth the time and expense.

One way to measure results is to look for leading indicators — knowledge, attitudes and self-reported changes in behavior — to see if financial education contributed to a positive change in behavior. USA Funds Life Skills, for example, assesses student impact by measuring gains in knowledge, capturing attitude and planned action after course completion, and tracking students’ application of the concepts and tools in the months following completion. Financial education results include:

  • Nine out of 10 students reported changing at least one behavior after completing USA Funds Life Skills courses.
  • Students report an average knowledge score of 3.4 out of 5 before training and 4.4 out of 5 after training.
  • The top reported behavior change is, “I consider if an item is a need or want before purchasing it and spend less on wants.”

Success stories

Register today for a free, one-hour financial literacy webcast to hear how Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and St. Philip's College in San Antonio have integrated financial education into student programs — including financial aid, student orientation and the classroom.