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‘Majoring in Money: How American College Students Manage Their Finances’ Shows Students are Conscientious, Careful, and Determined to be Financially Aware Consumers

More Than Half of College Students Have a Credit Card; Nearly Two-Thirds Pay Full Balance Each Month

NEWARK, Del., March 17, 2016–Conventional wisdom says young people have a lot to learn when it comes to managing money, but the reality is most American college students are handling their finances carefully and conscientiously, according to “Majoring in Money: How American College Students Manage Their Finances,” a new national study from Sallie Mae, the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company, and Ipsos, an independent global market research company.

Taking the Right Steps
“Majoring in Money” compiled the results of online interviews of 800 college students between the ages of 18 and 24, and reveals students are taking the right steps when it comes to managing money. More than three fourths (77 percent) of college students pay bills on time; six in ten (60 percent) never spend more money than they have available. In addition, college students are putting money aside each month. More than half (55 percent) save at least some money every month, and 24 percent report having an emergency fund.

Responsibly Using Credit Cards
While most college students make purchases with debit cards (85 percent), cash (86 percent), and mobile payments (77 percent), more than half–56 percent–have at least one credit card. In fact, roughly six in 10 (59 percent) report their primary reason for getting a credit card was to build their credit history. “Majoring in Money” also finds that the majority of students with credit cards are using them responsibly and paying the bill themselves. Specifically, 63 percent pay the balance in full each month, and 73 percent pay the bill without assistance from a parent or other adult. Roughly seven in 10 (69 percent) report an average monthly balance of $500 or less.

“Having a credit card doesn’t necessarily mean students are overspending,” said Julia Clark, senior vice president, Ipsos Public Affairs. “The reality is they are demonstrating sound reasoning and thoughtful decision-making, and they are managing their payments effectively.”

Understanding Credit Benefits and Behaviors
“Majoring in Money” finds most college students understand the value of good credit, and the majority know how to get and maintain it. Nine in 10 college students (91 percent) know having a good credit record can help them qualify for different types of credit and improve their access to favorable interest rates. The majority know paying bills on time (93 percent) and keeping credit balances low (63 percent) are positive credit behaviors, and opening multiple credit accounts simultaneously (64 percent) and using as much credit as possible (61 percent) are negative credit behaviors.

“It’s clear that today’s college students are focused on effectively managing their finances,” said Raymond J. Quinlan, chairman and CEO, Sallie Mae. “Many of these young people grew up in the wake of a financial crisis and, in turn, have adopted behaviors that promote sound credit management. At the same time, they are eager to learn more to continue on the road to financial stability and success. With free tools and resources to help students better understand credit, and benefits such as free quarterly access to FICO scores, we have the opportunity to help them do just that.”

Looking to Learn More
While the majority of college students express confidence in their current money management skills, 83 percent would like to learn more, especially about saving and budgeting. “Majoring in Money” also reveals college students would benefit from additional education around specific credit topics, including how interest accumulates and how repayment behavior and credit terms affect the cost of credit over time. In fact, when asked to answer multiple choice questions on those topics, only 31 percent answered all three questions correctly.

For the complete report, infographic and video visit Join the conversation using #MajoringInMoney.


About Ipsos
Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets, and is the world’s third largest survey-based market research company. Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research. Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe. Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,669.5 billion (2.218 billion USD) in 2014. Visit to l earn more.

About Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae (NASDAQ: SLM) is the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards, scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

Rick Castellano (Sallie Mae)

Julia Clark (Ipsos Public Affairs)
312.526.4919 (office)
202.560.2014 (mobile)