Every Woman Deserves a Financial Education

With a college education being the first large financial investment for many students, institutions should be responsible for helping students develop financial literacy skills, writes Beth Hwang.

March 9, 2022
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There is a major opportunity knocking for the nation’s colleges and universities if we choose to answer the door. For a long time, many have lamented the lack of financial education that occurs for young people, and even more specifically for women.

More than half of men in the recent Student Voice survey of 2,000 undergraduate students say their level of financial knowledge is either excellent or good, compared to roughly one-third of women respondents to the survey, conducted by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse with support from Kaplan. Women are twice as likely as men to associate negative emotions with their finances, according to a study from Credit Karma and Qualtrics, and women are five times more likely to live paycheck to paycheck than men. No longer can institutions of higher learning overlook the financial educational imbalance between men and women.

One of the most jarring themes of the Student Voice survey underscores a very important distinction between male respondents and female respondents: men invest and women save. Two-thirds of male respondents report talking to friends about investing in the stock market, while roughly four in 10 women do so. Instead, nearly six in 10 women report talking to their friends about saving for big purchases—buying a house, travel, wedding, etc.—while just over four in 10 men have those conversations. Women are also more likely to talk with their friends about credit cards and saving for emergencies than men.

Most women aren’t getting a solid financial education. Fewer than half of women respondents report having done personal research on financial topics, while two in 10 said they learned about money and finances in a high school class. Where most women are getting their financial education is from a parent or guardian. Many young people don’t know where to turn to talk about money and finances. And it’s especially daunting for students who have fewer financial resources.

While many colleges and universities have programs dedicated to talking about financial literacy, these programs are virtually unknown. Nearly seven in 10 respondents say they are “not sure” if their college or university has a program or class on financial literacy. Anywhere between 2 percent and 5 percent of respondents say their college or university has either a required noncredit program or a required for-credit class.

When we launched the StrongPoints initiative at Meredith College, one of the four pillars of the program was built around financial literacy. As household breadwinners are increasingly female, it is important that women have the financial tools and resources that come with supporting a household, negotiating salaries and building wealth.

When students come to Meredith, they complete the CliftonStrengths assessment, which provides them with the language to understand their natural talents. Students are then able to define and apply their strengths to succeed in accomplishing their individual goals. Our office not only helps students recognize and highlight those strengths but also coaches students on applying those strengths to manage their financial resources and opportunities.

The financial pillar in StrongPoints provides a spectrum of curriculum for students—everything from basic budgeting and negotiating compensation to more complex material such as how finances impact relationships, student loan repayment and financial goal setting.

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Student Voice explores higher education from the perspective of students, providing unique insights on their attitudes and opinions. Kaplan provides funding and insights to support Inside Higher Ed’s coverage of student polling data from College Pulse. Inside Higher Ed maintains editorial independence and full discretion over its coverage.

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We recently launched a required one-credit course that serves as an introduction to financial literacy topics. The course is built upon the MoneySmart certificate program from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and utilizes Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties by financial journalist Beth Kobliner. Our students have found this to be impactful, especially students who are getting ready to enter the workforce full-time.

Colleges and universities have a special responsibility to help our students develop financial literacy skills. After all, a college education is the first large financial investment many students will make. Today’s financial decisions will have an impact on tomorrow’s actions. If we are serious about ensuring we’re helping students become citizens of the world, women and men must be taught to navigate financial systems and understand basic financial responsibilities, which are critical to success.

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Beth Hwang is director of the StrongPoints program at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. Founded as a women’s institution, Meredith continues to serve this population in its undergraduate programs, while its graduate programs are also open to men.


Beth Hwang

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