After several years, we’ve learned how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected university students in all aspects of their education. More recent data about the financial fallout of COVID-19 illuminates shocking truths about student financial struggles in the U.S. and U.K.

A recent study by UPCEA revealed that 42% of U.S. students dropping out of higher education cited finances as their top reason. 

“One interesting point is this study was conducted during Covid-19, but loss of job was not a variable. So students are leaving for financial reasons, but not because they aren’t working.” – StraighterLine’s Chief Learning Officer Dr. Amy Smith

On the other side of the globe, 48% of all U.K. students have considered dropping out of university or deferring their education for similar financial reasons, according to a new report from Blackbullion.

For universities and students alike, this poses a major problem for the recruitment of new students into higher education and retention of students currently enrolled. It is a full-funnel issue that ultimately begs the question: how can universities help support their students during difficult financial times? What are the options?

Let’s break it down.

1) Knowing your students, prospective and current.

Universities are often making educated guesses about the root problems and needed solutions for their student body’s financial challenges. But during a time when so many students are struggling financially, extra focus may be necessary. To what extent is food insecurity or local housing a factor in student financial stress? Do students know how to access all types of financial aid? What is the financial make-up of both applicants and admitted students? To get insight into the specific struggles of your students and their own thoughts about how the university can help, Net Natives’ award-winning research team and marketing automation software, Akero, are excellent avenues for colleges and universities to access. Through continual surveys and engagement, educated guesses can easily turn into data-backed revelations about what your students are actually worried about and what the university can do to provide relief. With Akero, you can also acquire student data on prospective students and hold it, which keeps them from getting “lost in the crowd” after admission.

2) Address the “what” and “how”

In both the U.S. and U.K., financial aid is a multi-modal effort. There are scholarships, bursaries, grants, some form of “work-study,” government and private loans, and more. After simplifying and clarifying what aid is available to students, the extra work begins while educating students on how to acquire that aid. From gathering information about which kind of financial aid will cover their specific needs, to writing an application, to receiving funds to the appropriate location, universities should never assume that students are coming in with knowledge that will help them in the process of acquiring aid.

So, what can universities do to address the “how”? Perhaps regular in-person and online workshops which address questions like, “what does a successful scholarship or bursary application need?” and, “which kinds of aid can go towards things beyond tuition?” 

Knowing that today’s students are struggling with finances more than anything else, universities should make an effort to “rally the people,” and provide much-needed information that inspires students to take full advantage of all their options.

To go above and beyond, sponsored creative content which points students in the direction of helpful information and resources is a must. Thankfully, creative services are our jam. Universities can enlist the help of Net Natives’ creative team to deliver sponsored content that will reach students who need help more than ever. 

3) Go beyond the students

One of the harder things about addressing student financial stress is that it goes beyond just students. Parents of students applying to and attending college often have a stake in the game. Even more, messaging to parents of higher education students often needs to look a little different. In the same way you’ve gathered intel on your prospective and current students and created sponsored content to meet their needs, parents will benefit from a similar treatment. You can help ease parents’ worries through targeting and segmenting ads with slightly different messaging than students, and Net Natives’ software Akero is perfect for the job. 

If you’d like to learn more about how Net Natives’ research team, creative services, and our software Akero can help tackle major issues like student financial stress, get in contact today.