Supporting students with financial education is one of the best ways to build long-term financial resilience.
Learning about topics such as taxes, saving, investing, pensions and credit can complement a student’s higher education journey because no matter what path they choose to pursue, financial management is a core part of life.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a challenge to find where financial education fits into students’ day-to-day studies and how it ties in with your organisation’s broader aims and objectives.
The Student Financial Support Service at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) has developed an innovative way to do just that by introducing financial education as part of some degree courses.
Here are the team’s tried-and-tested tips for getting course leaders on board with financial education, to develop a whole institution approach to supporting students’ financial wellbeing.
1. Tie in with your organisation’s wider aims and objectives
Showing how financial education supports your institution’s larger initiatives can help to gain buy-in from other departments and stakeholders across your university or college.
Financial literacy can be a great tool to help students with fewer opportunities reach the same outcomes as their peers from other backgrounds.
For NTU, this was about demonstrating how financial education contributes to the university’s ‘Success for All’ initiative, which looks to address disparities in student engagement and outcomes. Ensuring that students have access to learning to support them throughout their time at NTU and help them succeed.
Equipping students with financial skills and confidence can be a preventative way of positively impacting student retention. For instance, 57% of students surveyed who have considered dropping out say using our financial wellbeing platform made them less likely to do so.
Aligning the idea of financial education with your institution’s broader objectives and goals from the offset increases the chance of buy-in from other staff members across your organisation.
2. Try to gain early buy-in from senior management
In NTU’s experience, gaining early approval from senior management in the Student Support Services department was a big help in getting others on board with embedding financial education as a part of some degree courses.
Successfully getting a senior management team member to advocate for the importance of financial education meant that other staff became more open-minded too.
It may be easier said than done and naturally, some individuals will be more amenable to the conversation than others. So sharing research into the critical link between students’ financial wellbeing and their wider health and wellbeing, student experience and academic attainment can be a powerful way of getting senior management to pay attention and move financial education higher up the agenda.
3. Build connections
Building connections and getting to know colleagues in other departments can be a valuable step in helping to embed a whole institution approach to financial education.
For NTU’s Financial Capability and Student Success Officer, Jacqui Hamilton, this small change came by attending other department meetings and bringing the topic of students’ financial wellbeing to the table – even if it meant inviting herself!
This enabled Jacqui to spread awareness about the need for financial education, while also learning the best ways it could be adjusted to fit the different needs of various departments.
Developing these relationships with colleagues throughout your institution can be possible even if you haven’t got much time to spare. Asking if you can pop into a meeting for 5-10 minutes can make a huge difference in spreading awareness in your institution. Or if that’s not feasible, you could also send an email – just to reach out and open a line of communication that you can keep coming back to moving forward.
In addition, making the most of internal communication channels could be a great way to spread the word too. Using staff-only communication channels like the VLE or intranet sites as well as making announcements in Microsoft Team meeting channels could all be great ways to increase visibility.
4. Demonstrate demand from students
For NTU, a survey of its students revealed an appetite for financial literacy, with 80% of students requesting the service. With such a huge majority, the team at NTU were able to use their findings to show there was real, demonstrable demand for the service from their students.
Being able to demonstrate that requests are coming from students could help to support your case when talking to course leaders or senior management about the value of financial education.
5. Embed financial education across the university
To work alongside their financial education workshops (more on those here), NTU has also implemented a wider ‘Managing Your Money’ online toolkit for students.
The toolkit has been created for students to use as and when needed, with signposting to the Blackbullion platform for further learning. This central hub allows a far greater reach across the university, so students can easily access a wealth of knowledge.
Students also gain recognition for completing it, which can potentially be used to contribute towards CPD modules.
6. Show how staff can benefit too
As more students struggle financially under increased pressure from the cost of living crisis, demand for support is climbing too – putting pressure on student services.
Providing students with financial education can alleviate pressure on staff too. For example, if students feel better prepared and more able to manage their money, this potentially decreases the number of students needing to apply for support funds, such as hardship funding, therefore reducing the number of applications that staff have to process.
Even though it’s important to note this type of support will always be needed – especially now as the ‘real value’ of student funding is declining as inflation rises – showing that there’s a chance of financial education alleviating some of the additional demand could make it more appealing to other staff.
7. Prove that financial education can make a measurable difference
A powerful way to prove something is to show the results!
While NTU says that it can be difficult to be fully sure of the true extent that financial education has directly impacted students’ attainment, the staff across the courses where financial education has been introduced all have positive things to say.
They report that students leave the course feeling confident to make financial decisions that will benefit them in the future.
Here are some differences NTU has seen since integrating financial education:
increase in students attending financial education workshops (AY 21/22 vs. AY 22/23) over the last academic year
of students surveyed who completed the module felt more confident with their finances
increase in the number of students signing up to Blackbullion in 2021/22 compared to 2020/21, after the introduction of the financial education workshops
It has shown me the importance of budgeting and how useful it can be as this is something I haven’t been doing previously.
8. Allocate dedicated resource (if possible)
The team at NTU were fortunate in that they were able to secure a Financial Capability and Student Success Project Officer (aka Jacqui!). This gave the team the capacity to focus on developing a proactive approach to students’ financial wellbeing.
While not every organisation will be able to have a dedicated role focused on doing this, perhaps you are still able to take some inspiration from NTU’s approach and the tips they’ve shared for embedding a whole institution approach to financial education?
Start seemingly small if you can – possibly by trying to incorporate some of NTU’s suggestions into your role or splitting them across your team.
These actions could go a long way towards getting others at your organisation on board with the importance of financial education. And ultimately, supporting the financial wellbeing of your students.
There’s no denying it’s been a tough year for students. Real term decreases in funding, coupled with spiralling living costs is really having an impact on their wellbeing, so it’s never been more important for us to work together as an institution to give students the knowledge and tools to manage their money, reduce their financial stresses and help them succeed.
Read more about NTU’s project of blending financial education into degree courses and the impact they’ve seen so far.
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