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2018/2019 CashCourse Independent Evaluation Findings

Posted October 28, by Raven Newberry

As part of the National Endowment for Financial Education’s (NEFE) commitment to rigorous evaluation practices, the CashCourse program underwent a third-party evaluation by the University of Cincinnati (UC) Economics Center during the 2018-2019 school year.

The evaluation’s findings offer valuable insight into how schools use CashCourse and how the program impacts student learning and behavior. Additionally, the evaluation provided best practices for college campuses on how to effectively implement financial education programs.

The UC Economics Center focused on the following evaluation directives:
  • Determine CashCourse impact on students’ knowledge, confidence and behaviors.
  • Evaluate the program’s educator support materials.
  • Determine how CashCourse resources are used in the field.

Key Findings
The 2018-2019 evaluation found that CashCourse impacted the following student outcomes:

Learning
  • Assessments demonstrated improved student post-assessment scores after participating in the school’s required use of CashCourse.
  • The largest knowledge gain was seen on the subject of emergency funds with an 18 percent increase of correct responses in the post-test over the pre-test.
Confidence
  • Students reported greater levels of confidence on credit, paying down debt and tracking spending.
  • There was an 11 percent increase in students indicating they “strongly agree” they know the benefits of paying off debt quickly.
Behavior
  • Students reported improved behaviors on credit, paying down debt and tracking spending.
  • Tracking spending was the topic that exhibited the largest change in behavior with a 14 percent increase in students saying they “almost always” track their spending after completing their school’s required use of CashCourse.

In addition to the impact of CashCourse materials on students, the evaluation covered program structure, topics and communication. This portion of the evaluation was intended to guide practitioners in their implementation of financial education on the college campus.

Timing and Duration
  • Many students noted they felt overwhelmed by the number of requirements at the beginning of their first year and would have preferred taking financial education courses the summer before, or even upon college acceptance.
  • Many students stated they would prefer smaller deliveries of financial education throughout their college years versus a one-time event or class.
Communication
  • Students would prefer taking a required financial education course that is explicit in its implications for students’ academic career.
  • Many students shared what they learned with friends and family. Practitioners could consider how to better build on this knowledge share (e.g. specific resources for parents).
  • Be sure to let students know what resources are available to them and for how long. Many of the students noted they did not realize they could reference CashCourse beyond their required use of it.
Topic and Format
  • Students want financial education to be personalized and the ability to choose difficulty level and topic.
  • Students asked for more video and audio options in their financial education. Many noted they would listen to a podcast on the subject.
  • Common topic requests were student loans, credit and budgeting that reflects a student’s actual financial life (e.g. disbursement of financial aid at the beginning of the year versus regular monthly income).

Methodology
The UC Economics Center surveyed current CashCourse school administrators to determine common usage of the program, financial literacy requirements and demographics of CashCourse partners. This survey was sent to approximately 1,000 schools and yielded 97 responses. The findings included:

  • 62 percent of respondents were four-year colleges and 75 percent were public institutions.
  • 21 percent required CashCourse to be completed by students.
  • The departments most likely to administrator CashCourse were TRiO student support services, student affairs, first year experience programs and financial aid offices.
  • The most common way schools distributed CashCourse was through a link on a website or program page.
  • School requirements typically have students engage with CashCourse for 45-60 minutes.

The primary quantitative analysis was a matched-pair sample using a linear regression. 213 students completed a pre-assessment, participated in the financial literacy curriculum and a post-assessment.

The UC Economics Center also conducted a secondary post-assessment on knowledge retention, behavioral change and attitudinal shifts regarding financial literacy. Finally, they identified high-use partner schools to complete focus groups with and to learn more about the students’ perception of the program.

 

Evaluation Timeline
 Summer 2018  
  • 97 universities provided survey responses on use of CashCourse.
  • Students completed the pre-assessments.
 Fall 2018  
  • Students completed the CashCourse program at their school.
  • Students completed the post-assessments.
 Spring 2019  
  • Students completed a secondary post-assessment on knowledge retention, behavioral change and attidunial shifts.
  • Five focus groups were conducted at high-use partner schools.

Evaluating Your Campus’ Program

To learn more about the importance of evaluation and how to evaluate your own program, check out the following NEFE resources:

About CashCourse: Created with input from real students and universities, CashCourse equips students with information that helps them make informed financial decisions, from orientation to graduation and beyond. The program offers student-focused tools and information, alongside educator support resources. www.cashcourse.org.

About NEFE: The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) provides financial education and information to people at all financial stages. NEFE believes that regardless of background or income level more financially informed individuals are better able to take control of their circumstances, improve their quality of life and ensure a more stable future for themselves and their families. www.nefe.org.

About UC Center for Economics: The research and consulting division of the Economics Center provides the knowledge building blocks that help clients make better policy and economic development decisions. www.economicsresearch.org