Financial literacy and financial well-being among the higher education workforce

October 2022

How does financial literacy affect the higher education workforce’s debt levels, savings behavior and overall financial wellness?


This report’s findings are clear that financial well-being among the higher education workforce tends to be better among those with greater financial literacy, highlighting the value of campus programs to improve personal finance knowledge. Debt is a particular point of focus as many individuals report being debt constrained. Savings behavior is also examined, as well as several indicators of financial well-being.

Key Insights
Debt is ubiquitous among college and university employees—82% carry some form of debt, and 51% are debt constrained to some degree.
The most common non-retirement reason for saving is to build an emergency fund—65% are saving for this reason.
Financial literacy among full-time college and university employees compares favorably with that of U.S. adults in general but is nonetheless low for many.
Higher ed employees with lower financial literacy tend to have lower financial well-being.

CUPA-HR and the TIAA Institute surveyed a sample of 1,327 faculty, staff and administrators employed full time by a public or private nonprofit college or university. The survey was conducted online between March 1 and April 11, 2022. Responses were weighted to be representative of the full-time higher education workforce.


This is the third report in a series. Read the first report: Responding to job hunting among higher ed employees
Read the second report: High inflation and depressed stock markets: Retirement readiness among the higher education workforce