The vast majority of college and university employees—82 percent—carry some kind of debt, and just over half are debt-constrained in some way, according to a new report by the TIAA Institute and the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR).
The debt is more heavily concentrated in younger higher ed employees; 88 percent of those under 40 are carrying debt—most of it in student loans—compared to 64 percent of workers over 60, who are mainly paying off mortgages.
The report, “Financial Literacy and Financial Well-Being Among the Higher Education Workforce,” also found that higher ed professionals are slightly more financially literate than the general population. Forty-one percent correctly answered four or five out of five questions about fundamental economic concepts such as interest rates, inflation and risk diversification, compared to 32 percent of all U.S. adults.
Younger higher ed employees demonstrated lower financial literacy than older ones, with 39 percent of those under 40 answering two or fewer questions correctly, according to the report.
That may not bode well for their financial futures.
“Higher ed employees with very low levels of financial literacy are over three times more likely to be significantly debt-constrained and three times more likely to lack one month’s worth of emergency savings,” said Melissa Fuesting, senior survey researcher at CUPA-HR. “These findings signal the importance of financial literacy programming in employer financial well-being initiatives—financial literacy impacts the range of decision-making encountered in individuals’ financial lives.”