Financial wellness among the higher education workforce: Impact of COVID-19

March 2021

As colleges and universities search for viable paths to continue operating in the face of COVID-19, higher education employees have been affected in many ways, including financial.


This report uses data from the 2020 Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey to gauge the financial wellness of the full-time higher education workforce. The survey was fielded at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester, when 35% of full-time employees on campus had experienced a decrease in income through furlough or salary reduction. In addition, 45% were very or somewhat concerned about losing their job within the next two years. With these conditions as a backdrop, this report provides a nuanced perspective on how the pandemic has impacted the financial wellness of full-time college and university employees.

Key Insights
27% of respondents reported that their overall financial condition had worsened since the onset of COVID-19, while 25% reported that it improved, likely due to decreased discretionary spending.
61% were satisfied with their current financial condition; only 16% were dissatisfied.
40% expect their overall financial condition to improve over the next year, while 13% expect it to worsen.
28% of borrowers have taken on new debt and 25% have missed or been late with loan payments due to financial hardship resulting from COVID-19.
78% of higher education employees had non-retirement savings before the pandemic, and over a third have used at least some of that savings since the pandemic’s onset.

The 2020 Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey was fielded online from Sept. 18 to Oct. 17, 2020, with a sample of 1,195 faculty, staff and administrators employed full time by a public or private nonprofit college or university. Responses were weighted to represent the full-time higher education workforce.

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