Survey: Most College Students “financially illiterate”

Group finds widespread cluelessness when it comes to debt and credit

By Mark Huffman
Colleges are full of smart people. But when it comes to managing debt, there appears to be a huge knowledge gap at our institutions of higher
A couple of months ago a student loan site,, visited a few California colleges and asked students a series of general questions about student debt.
“The results of the survey were equal parts surprising and disturbing,” the group said in an email to Consumer Affairs.
So this month the survey team went back to the same campuses and asked a series of questions relating to credit, how to build it, and how it’s measured with credit scores. The team talked to a wide range of students, both undergraduates and those pursuing graduate degrees.


Here’s what the survey revealed:

  • business-15721_1280.jpg59.3% couldn’t define what a credit score is
  • 19.0% thought it was better to have a low credit score than a high one
  • 95.5% had no idea what the range of possible credit scores is
  • 42.5% don’t think student loan debt is a factor in a credit score
  • 65.1% didn’t have a credit card in their own name
  • Of those who did have a credit card, 72.1% didn’t know their credit score
  • 45.5% couldn’t name one factor used to determine a credit score
  • 42.4% couldn’t name one way to improve their credit score

It goes on.

Ignored subject

The organization says the results might not be all that surprising, in light of the fat that only 17 states require high school students to take even one course in personal finance. California is not one of those states.
“Our results are once again startling, disturbing, and showcase the appalling level of financial illiteracy among our country’s brightest minds,” the authors conclude.


Financial literacy isn’t hard or complicated, and there are a number of free resources to help you learn the basics.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers what it calls 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy. It’s designed to help people understand their personal finances through every stage of life.
The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards provides a financial planning resource kit to help consumers learn the basics of financial planning. offers these free resources, some of which can be downloaded, to help teach financial literacy skills.