Looking at Student Finances in a Short-Term Context

In a long-term context, student finances have become a term of sharp debate in both social and political circles. But one thing that many people don’t consider when discussing student finances is information about short-term student finances. After college, some students may be able to find a better financial position and pay off their debts, but how does college impact your finances while you’re actually going through it? OneClass recently did a study regarding how much money students have in their bank accounts, and the responses may shed additional light on student financial situations.

Seeing All the Responses

First off, it’s a good idea to look at the raw data. What did students respond overall? Here are all the responses regarding bank account information.

  • $0-$50: 13.5%
  • $51-$500: 22.8%
  • $501-$1,000: 10.5%
  • $1,001-$2,000: 10.3%
  • $2,001-$5,000: 20.1%
  • $5,001-$10,000: 13.0%
  • $10,001 or more: 9.8%

Although this basic information is very helpful when discussing student financial wellness, it’s hard to truly get an idea of what this means in a real-world context. Here are just a few things you can take from this survey.

A Startling Number of Students Didn’t Even Report Having More Than $50

13.5% of students reported having between $0-$50 in their bank accounts; students who were carrying overdraft balances and had negatives in their bank account likely chose this option as well. This number might not seem substantial until you realize that it’s just over one out of every eight students. That means that in a class of 50 people, between six and seven of them statistically may have $50 or less in their bank accounts right now.

Nearly Half of Students Reported Having $1,000 or Less in Liquid Assets

It’s also interesting to look at the larger picture. As a person, it’s important to make sure that you have enough money to handle small emergencies that come your way, and students tend toward not having that. Overall, 46.8% of students reported having $1,000 or less. That includes all liquid funds, which means that some students may not even be able to handle a minor emergency if it were to come their way. Going back to a class of 50 people, between 23 and 24 people wouldn’t have more than $1,000.

Students Overwhelmingly Don’t Have a Proper Emergency Fund Saved Up

If you’ve been researching financial wellness, you probably know of the concept of an emergency fund. Also called a “rainy day fund,” an emergency fund includes enough to cover 3-6 months of recurring expenses, which can cover an unexpected loss of income — for example, a medical emergency or a job loss. And 77.2% of students indicated that they had $5,000 or less, which definitely doesn’t cover an emergency fund, especially considering that it includes both checking and savings accounts. In that class of 50 people, only 11 to 12 people could potentially have a proper emergency fund.

As College Continues, You Might Find Your Finances Waning

In addition to collecting information about bank accounts, OneClass also collected information about the respondents’ college years. Though not enough fourth-year students responded to gather any insights, the survey did find that third-year students tended to have the least. Most commonly, third-year students reported having $51-$500, with the median answer being $0-$50.


Overall, it’s hard to draw any definite conclusions just from one study, and more research would definitely fill in some of these blanks. But it’s clear that students tend toward less financial wellness than many other parts of the population. Whether you’re considering going into college, you’re currently in college, or you just like knowing more about the current state of financial wellness in the United States, these are interesting pieces of information that you might want to think about next time you’re talking about collegiate financial wellness.