Academic journal article Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning

Financial Stress, Coping Strategy, and Academic Achievement of College Students

Academic journal article Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning

Financial Stress, Coping Strategy, and Academic Achievement of College Students

Article excerpt

College is occasionally portrayed as a time of optimistic and stress-free young adulthood, filled with late night existential discussions, and characterized by carefree attitudes that nearly all things are possible with sufficient resiliency and resolve. The reality for today's college students is often much bleaker. Because college students emerge from adolescence, they are met with a great deal of changes and new responsibilities as they become independent adults, much of which is stressful (Pierceall & Keim, 2007). In addition to new environments and responsibilities, for many students, it is their first encounter with budgeting, paying bills, and responsibly using credit (Gutter & Copur, 2011; Tinto, 2012). To add to this, students must skillfully navigate a complex financial environment which may include unstable personal finances, rapidly increasing tuition, and eroding financial support from parents and family (Worthy, Jonkman, & Blinn-Pike, 2010).

A potential source of financial stress for college students is the cost of tuition and fees, which has grown at 3 times the rate of inflation. In today's economy, students would have to work year-round at 55 hours per week to pay for the average public college tuition, whereas a student in the 1960s could have worked 40 hours per week in the summer and 15 hours per week during the school year to pay the same (Bousquet, 2008). The cost of working more hours is high in terms of academic and social integration on college campuses-the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, 2008) is concerned that students will cease to be academically and socially engaged on campuses because they are driven to work more hours to meet basic financial needs.

Financial stress impacts students in many ways. Financially stressed students frequently consider leaving college (Roberts et al., 2000), have higher levels of psychological problems (Smyth, Hockemeyer, Heron, Wonderlich, & Pennebaker, 2008)-including lower levels of self-reported health (Roberts et al., 2000) and higher self-reported mental health needs (Hyun, Quinn, Madon, & Lustig, 2006)- poorer living conditions (Hayhoe, Leach, Allen, & Edwards, 2005), increased college adjustment difficulties (Meehan & Negy, 2003), unhealthy behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and adverse academic outcomes (Northern, O'Brien, & Goetz, 2010).

Given the documented negative effects of financial stress on college students' well-being, the purpose of this study was to examine how the combination of financial resources and financial perceptions influences financial stress. A secondary purpose was to determine how financial stress-controlling for financial resources and perceptions-influences academic achievement. This study adds to the scant literature on the specific impact of financial resources on college students' financial stress and subsequent academic achievement.

Theoretical Framework and Related Literature

To answer the two research questions, a stress framework was needed. According to the double ABC-X stress model, an individual's perception of a stressor and the resources available to react to the stressor determines how much stress the individual will ultimately feel (McCubbin & Patterson, 1981). The model allows us to explore the dual influence of resources and perceptions on college students' financial stress levels and how stress, in turn, influences academic achievement. The double ABC-X model focuses on the idea that individuals rarely encounter a single demand (McCubbin, Needle, & Wilson, 1985). Rather, individuals are dealing with a "pile-up" of demands which are the cumulative effect of multiple stressors and strains over time (Lavee, McCubbin, & Patterson, 1985; McCubbin et al., 1985). The model is appropriate for use in this study in which financial stress and its influence on academic achievement is being tested while controlling for other stressors encountered by college students (Figure 1). …

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