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Survey to determine students' financial wellness

Chart showing trend in total U.S. student debt, 2004-2014. The amount of debt carried by American students has more than tripled over the past 10 years. (Los Angeles Times/MCT 2014)

The National Student Financial Wellness Study is being administered at Weber State University (WSU) starting Nov. 1. The survey is being conducted on 50 university campuses across the nation, including the University of Utah and Utah State University.

Jennifer Gnagey, an assistant professor in the economics department, is leading the study at WSU. Gnagey recently worked on the study as a graduate student at Ohio State University.

“With this survey, we hope to get a detailed picture of what financial situations our students are facing and how they are dealing with them so we can improve service on both ends,” Gnagey said.

College students are facing financial obstacles to attend classes. The national average for a student graduating with a bachelor’s degree is $30,000 of debt. The average for students in Utah is $20,000.

The survey will cover student loans, financing, credit card debt, car loans and mortgage.

Finances cause more than just stress on the wallet, so wellness is being covered as well. “How financial life affects stress, anxiety, eating habits, exercise habits and general wellness,” Gnagey said.

The survey is designed to help institutions improve their financial support services for students.

“We know that current financial aid and support services are in need of improvement,” said Gnagey, “but we don’t have the data to determine the best ways to make improvement.”

Three thousand students will be randomly sent an invitation by email to take the survey on Nov. 1. The survey will take about 20 minutes to complete.

“We are depending on students to make their voices heard to let us know where they see gaps in the system so we can use their knowledge and their information from living through this system to make it better,” Gnagey said. “One way they can help us do that is by taking this survey.”

The survey will cover both two and four-year universities and colleges. Both public and private schools will be included in the survey.

In addition to helping the national survey, the Center for Community Engaged Learning will use the date to help the Ogden United Promise Neighborhood Initiative. This program helps to improve cradle-to-career support services for a handful of disadvantaged neighborhoods in Ogden.

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