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Underrepresented minority students are more likely to require support with their finances in college, according to a new analysis.

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Financial insecurity is one of the primary reasons students consider unenrolling or decide to unenroll from postsecondary education, making addressing fiscal needs a retention and enrollment priority for higher education institutions.

An April 24 report from Jobs for the Future (JFF) identifies racial, ethnic and gender gaps in student financial insecurity during the 2021–22 academic year and areas of focus for higher education leaders.


The Trellis 2022 Student Financial Wellness Survey evaluated over 30,000 students from 89 two- and four-year institutions in 23 states.

The analysis disaggregates data from the 2022 Student Financial Wellness Survey to identify trends among subpopulations in higher education.

The study: Compared to their white peers, Black and Latine students were more likely to need food, housing, utility and medical assistance, plus reported having more difficulty covering a $500 emergency. A recent study from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation found these groups of students were most likely to stop out of college due to emotional stress, mental health concerns and expenses.

Black students were also more likely to need childcare assistance.

Women of all racial and ethnic groups were more likely to face financial insecurity than their male counterparts. Women were almost twice as likely to report they would struggle to find $500 in case of emergency and twice as likely to require childcare assistance. They were also 1.6 times more likely to use medical care assistance, 1.5 times more likely to use food assistance, 1.4 times more likely to use housing assistance and 1.3 times more likely to use utility assistance.

Across racial groups, Black women were most likely to need all forms of assistance, but overwhelmingly used childcare assistance (7 times higher than Black men). Latine women were much more likely to need housing and utility assistance compared to other groups of women and Latine men.

Students who are parents reported higher levels of use of welfare assistance, with food assistance the highest (4.6 times more) compared to their nonparenting peers, followed by medical care (3.2 times more) and housing (2 times more).

Students who used financial aid—including student loans, grants or scholarships—were more likely to be financially insecure compared to their peers who didn’t use outside aid. Black, Latine and female students also expressed they were less confident in their ability to pay back student loans, which could be tied to overall financial insecurity, according to the report.

Next steps: To better support current and future learners with financial need, the report highlights three areas of investment that higher education leaders can prioritize.

  • Student basic needs centers. Colleges and universities have consolidated institutional and community resources to help students who may need resources into one center. This makes services more visible and accessible, but many still face low utilization rates due to a lack of knowledge. Nudging students or reaching out to those who may be eligible can help.
  • Systemic assistance. Many of the structures of higher education do not accommodate today’s learners, who are no longer just middle-class young white men, but also older adults, workers and caregivers. Outdated rules exclude college students from participating in federal food and housing programs, so higher education officials should both advocate for students’ needs at a policy level and work to address concerns outside of state or national resources.
  • Data. There is very little national data on postsecondary financial wellness, outside of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which is administered every three to four years. Annual, institution-level financial well-being data is needed to assess financial insecurity over time, link measures to outcomes and evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs and policies.

What is your institution doing to track or use student financial well-being data? Tell us about it.

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