Capable and Smart Decisions about Student Loans
Using data from the 2014-2015 National Student Financial Wellness Study with 5,892 student-loan borrowers from 50 universities in the United States, this study examines the impact of student loan decision making strategies and financial capability on financial efficacy and student loan stress. Financial capability includes financial knowledge, financial behavior, and financial stress. Findings suggest that the strategies that students use in making student loan decisions impacted both outcomes. In particular, borrowing the maximum was a risk factor-- decreasing financial efficacy and increasing stress. As overall predictors of outcomes, financial capability was more impactful that decision making strategies. The findings have important implications for students, family members, and practitioners in higher education because identifying the relationship between financial capability and student loan decision making, can help practitioners to better counsel students. Based on findings, students, their family members, and financial counselors should focus on making students more financially capable by encouraging positive financial behaviors, teaching financial knowledge skills, and helping to alleviate negative financial stress. Students, family members, and practitioners should also focus on utilizing positive student loan decision making strategies when considering borrowing a student loan.