Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

James Eison, Ph.D.


Credit card usage, Debt management, Higher education, Jumpstart questionnaire, Money management


The level of university students' financial literacy has been discussed in Congress, opinion pieces in the media and the increasing level of student debt has been used to suggest their financial illiteracy. This study investigated the financial literacy of graduating university seniors by comparing their financial literacy level with their debt level. The difference in financial literacy levels of business majors, minors and non-business majors was assessed. The relationship between graduating university seniors' financial literacy level and their credit card and student loan debt was also reviewed. Gender, employment status, ethnicity, family income and college major were similarly examined to see if they were predictors of financial literacy levels and debt levels. Although financial literacy is frequently discussed in the national arena there is no clear definition of financial literacy; this ambiguity has led to multiple definitions.

In this study, financial literacy was defined as "an individual's ability to obtain, understand, and evaluate the relevant information necessary to make decisions with an awareness of the likely financial consequences" (Mason & Wilson, 2000). The Jump$tart questionnaire (Mandell, 2004) was used to calculate participants' financial literacy level. The study found that the majority of the students had a high level of financial literacy with an average financial literacy score of 72.56% and with students majoring in business performing significantly better than non-business students. The use of debt level as an indicator of financial literacy level was found to be incorrect. No relationship was identified between financial literacy level and credit card debt or student loan debt. The study also found that demographic factors could not be used to predict financial literacy level and debt level.

It was found that the majority of participants learned about managing money either on their own or at home from family members. More than half of the participants expressed an interest in taking a personal finance class but less than 20% were aware that this course was offered at their university. More effective methods are recommended to ensure that students become more aware such courses being offered on campus.