Financial Concerns Can Affect Students' Academic Performance

By Catherine Groux
Posted November 19, 2012 12:00 PM

Many students are stressed about their finances.
Many students are stressed about their finances.
As the cost of earning a bachelor's degree continues to rise, many students worry about how they are going to pay for their education. In fact, a 2011 report by the American College Health Association shows that finances are the second-largest stressor for students, falling just behind academics. Last year, more than one-third of students said they would describe their financial situation as "traumatic" or "very difficult" to deal with.

For this reason, the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) decided to take a closer look at college students' financial situation and how it affects them.

Both Freshmen and Seniors Worry About College Costs

The NSSE survey reveals that all college students, whether they are freshmen or seniors, have the same concerns about financing their education. For example, about 59% of freshmen and 53% of seniors said they are worried about paying for college. Along the same lines, 60% of college freshmen and 62% of seniors said they are concerned about having enough money to pay for regular expenses.

College Costs Affecting Students' Academic Performance

The stress students have over paying for college affects them in many ways, but it is particularly apparent in their academic performance. According to the survey, about one-third of both college freshmen and seniors agree that their financial concerns have interfered with their academic performance. In some situations, this was because students simply could not afford required course materials, including textbooks. About one-quarter of freshmen and one-third of seniors said they have not purchased required academic materials due to their high cost.

However, not only do college students with financial concerns tend to avoid purchasing expensive course materials, but they also devote many hours to part- or full-time jobs. While this can help them earn some extra money, it often prevents them from putting enough time toward their school work. According to the survey, 60% of students who work more than 20 hours per week believe their job interferes with their academic performance.

Colleges Must Do Their Part to Help

Alexander C. McCormick, director of the survey, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that schools should use this data to improve students' college experience. While most colleges already know their students hold part-time, on-campus jobs, they must do more to determine how many hours they spend working off campus, as well as how this is affecting their academic performance.

"You can never do enough to understand who your students are," McCormick told the Chronicle. "The really hard work is up to the colleges and universities, to figure out what the data mean and what they want to do in response."

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