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Steve Hinnefeld
IU Communications

Last modified: Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Indiana University research addresses financial literacy of graduate students

Aug. 20, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University officials are conducting a study of the financial literacy of graduate and professional school students, gauging the students' understanding of money management and providing them with practical information about debt, savings and related topics.

TIAA-CREF, a national financial services organization that serves academic institutions and their employees, has awarded the university $80,000 for the second phase of the study. The organization provided $100,000 for the first phase of the study, which began in 2011 and ended this summer.

Daniel Rives

Dan Rives

Dan Rives, IU associate vice president for University Human Resources, planned and is leading the research. He said the goals include helping current graduate students make good decisions about finances and positioning the university to better meet the needs of the future workforce.

"We want to support financial literacy for graduate students," Rives said. "But there's also a component to this of understanding how Indiana University can do a better job in the future of assisting new employees. Today's graduate students are the university employees of the future."

The first phase of the study focused on student academic appointees, a category of graduate students that includes teaching and research assistants. The second phase, now getting under way, will address other students in Indiana University graduate and professional schools.

James Wimbush, dean of the University Graduate School and vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, said the project is consistent with IU's effort to enhance the financial literacy of all students, including graduate students.

"The study provides Indiana University with a unique opportunity to learn more about the literacy levels of graduate students, and then use the data to design programs to help them become more knowledgeable about financial decisions," he said. "I'm very pleased that TIAA-CREF's generosity has made this project possible."

The research includes a survey to collect information from graduate and professional school students at Indiana University about demographics, financial priorities and levels of financial literacy. Based on survey responses, IU and TIAA-CREF then offers financial literacy seminars, providing information on such topics as managing debt and taking advantage of pre-tax investments.

Rives said the survey for graduate assistants found them to be similar to other new employees.

"The graduate assistants are very similar to a new faculty or professional staff member," he said. "Many of them have families, they're thinking about mortgages, student loans and credit card debt."

The second phase of the study will determine whether other graduate and professional school students share the same concerns and priorities as graduate assistants and will target financial literacy programs to their needs. IU and TIAA-CREF researchers will provide reports and presentations on their findings and may submit the results for publication.