Uncovering Barriers to Financial Capability: Underrepresented Students' Access to Financial Resources

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Journal of Student Financial Aid

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Financial aid is designed to increase access to postsecondary education at all socioeconomic levels; however, college students are not always knowledgeable about personal finances or capable of making sound decisions regarding complex college and program choices, debt options, and longterm spending. This article reviews previous research on the need for financial literacy training among underrepresented students and the barriers caused by inadequate access to financial services and information. Studies reviewed explore (a) the abilities of underrepresented students to make informed financial decisions; (b) the disadvantages faced by minority and first-generation students compared to their more advantaged peers; and (c) the need for cross-campus collaboration when developing a multipronged informational access system to overcome existing cultural biases. We used survey data, focus-group information, and personal interviews to determine current barriers impacting access to financial information and define the best practices leading to financial capability, as identified by faculty and staff working directly with underrepresented students. Barriers denying access to financial information include students’ lack of financial literacy, lack of trust in resources and services, and lack of reliable online resources. Best practices include workshops, online informational resource pages, and one-on-one advising. We describe the unique barriers faced by students who self-identified with one of nine specific student resource cultural centers on campus serving underrepresented minorities, women, LBGTQ+, students with disabilities, veterans, and others. Our results suggest that with an increasingly diverse student body, it is critical to student success that all university faculty and staff nationwide increase awareness and support of financial issues impacting underrepresented populations.

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