Even in the best of times, there’s still a stigma around talking about money. But students can become even more tight-lipped about their finances when times are hard.
The findings emerging from our latest research show that the cost of living crisis means students are finding it even more difficult to have money conversations across the board.
Whether it be with their peers or their parents, keeping the dialogue open is essential to avoid students becoming silent. It’s a worry that the progress that’s been made over the last few years on opening up the way we talk about money could turn to silence as things get tough.
So, here are a few ways you can keep money conversations going with your students, so they can share what they’re thinking and feeling and you can tell them about the support that’s available to help them.
1. Hold conversation starter sessions
Having a dedicated forum where students can have conversations about their money can be a great method to help students open up.
Creating a safe space will dilute residual judgments and fears around financial support and minimise feelings of isolation by demystifying the complexities around money matters. Using these sessions to help clarify the complicated world of money can be a great way to enable students to take control of their personal finances.
Staff can also have a few financial icebreakers on hand to get the conversation going. These are a great way to get the ball rolling on a subject that can be hard for students to open up about.
Another way to help get the conversation started is to get your student ambassadors involved. They can help facilitate these conversations – because it’s been proven that students feel most comfortable speaking to their peers.
2. Get in front of students
When conversations around money aren’t taking place, those feeling isolated can struggle to know where to get relevant help and support.
If resources allow, set up a ‘pop-up’ station to build awareness of the support available. This can be as simple as a student support staff member(s) setting up shop outside campus alongside a student ambassador.
Not only does this make the help available to students visible, but it also provides another space where students can talk about their money worries. From there, students can identify those who can help them and begin to develop a sense of trust.
These ‘pop-ups’ don’t need to take up too much time. An hour outside of the campus restaurant over lunch or outside the library may be enough.
3. Encourage students to get involved with financial wellbeing initiatives
Not all students will feel comfortable having face-to-face conversations about money.
To make sure they’re not excluded, encourage them to get involved with online and social media initiatives including Talk Money Week, National Student Money Week and Money Confessions.
Some of these initiatives allow students to have conversations anonymously. Providing an anonymous forum means students who otherwise might feel isolated or alone with their money problems can participate in a discussion or simply read what others have to say.
These online and social media discussions are a great way to normalise conversations about money and ensure you’re reaching a broader range of students, particularly those who may be resistant to face-to-face support.
4. Help students understand how they can discover additional funds
Speaking to students about money also provides the opportunity to share information about your organisation’s hardship process and how students can access other funds.
Another way to help ensure students are accessing any and all funding they may be eligible for is to signpost them to resources like The Scholarship Hub and our Funding Hub where they can discover and apply for additional funding.
We’re actively asking corporate businesses to produce more scholarships, grants and bursaries for students in need and adding them to our Funding Hub – to help students bridge the ever-widening financial gap between what they need and have.
Get in touch if you want to find out more about the Funds Management System (FMS) and our Funding Hub.
5. Provide information about the real cost of studying
Staff in our community have told us that students are arriving on campus less financially prepared than ever before. It’s important to open up money conversations before students have even started their studies.
When talking with prospective students, it’s never been more essential to make sure that all information you share on the cost of student life is accurate and that they understand how inflation may change things while they’re studying, as prices today could be very different in a few months.
Start this conversation early by getting information to students pre-arrival, and also provide applicants with guidance for balancing paid work with their studies.
It’s also helpful to keep everything in an easily editable format so it can be updated when there are changes in the economy or with the cost of living.
Get more ideas to help students be financially prepared for university.
6. Highlight the facilities available to students that may help support their studies and finances
When talking to students, they should be encouraged to maximise the time they’re spending on campus, where possible, to make use of the facilities.
For a student, it could mean the difference between having a warm library to work in instead of studying in their student flat that may be cold as they try to save on heating.
A small mention in a conversation regarding the support available can go a long way if it means the student can understand there are facilities available on campus to help them counteract rising energy bills.
Higher education institutions should also highlight whenever their Students’ Unions are running a free event, to make sure these are visible to students who may feel excluded if all they see are paid events they can’t afford to attend.
7. Support students to find paid work
A short chat can be all that’s needed to guide a struggling student to the careers team. From there, the careers team can share information on how to find on-campus jobs and increase the availability of these if possible.
If a student you’re talking to is struggling with money, or maybe having to take on a part-time job that is detracting from their studies, it could be helpful to make them aware of any opportunities available on campus that may prove to be more flexible alongside their studies.
Find more suggestions for helping students find paid work here.
8. Partner with academic staff and other teams to implement a whole institution approach to student financial wellbeing
Some universities and colleges have embedded finance into their curriculum, which has inspired a whole institution conversation about the role financial education should play for students studying a range of subjects.
Find out how Nottingham Trent University has introduced financial education as part of some degree courses in partnership with course leaders.
When financial education becomes so deeply embedded into the culture of a higher education institute, it allows conversations about money to flow even more freely.
It also helps to destigmatise conversations about personal finance as students frame their conversations about finances as an academic subject, rather than a personal issue.
On the topic of dialogue with students, we’ve recently added a new Communications Tool to our Funds Management System (FMS), to make it easier for staff members using the FMS to manage their organisation’s fund applications and ask students about anything on their application.
Staff can now speak to students in an online-chat-style conversation from inside the Blackbullion platform – no need for additional emails or phone calls – making it much easier for both parties! (Communication must be initiated by a staff member to avoid any additional contact from students with queries about their application.)
Get in touch if you want to find out more.
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