You Won't Want the Freshman 15,000
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Maybe you've heard of the "freshman 15."
That's the average amount of weight first-year college students are predicted to gain during their first year away from mom and dad's healthy cooking.
Then there's the "Freshman $15,000" -- the amount of debt accrued by a college freshman who isn't careful about how they're spending money and saving for the last three years of college -- and after.
Granted, $15,000 isn't a hard and fast number. In fact, it could be less, but there's no question toxic financial attitudes about money can lead to "risky financial behaviors" among the first year college set.
That's the conclusion of a study by Higher One, a Washington, D.C., college and university technology services company.
The report, Money Matters on Campus: How Early Attitudes and Behaviors Affect the Financial Decisions of First-Year College Students, surveyed 40,000 college students on their attitudes about savings, debt and spending once they set foot on campus.
The big takeaway is this: First-year students are unprepared for handling their own finances away from home, and there is a "strong" connection between accumulating heavy debt during freshman year and not having a bank account.
Financial mistakes made in the early years of college can hang around, and worsen, as the student graduates and heads out into the real word. That "hangover," the Higher One study says, can lead to an "increased risk of negative financially related outcomes" later in life.
While the report doesn't call out parents for not teaching their kids good money habits, it does brush aside any role mom and dad might have once their kids leave for college. The study calls for more pervasive and powerful financial literacy programs on campus for college freshmen.
"This report sounds the alarm that institutions must augment current financial literacy education," says Mary Johnson, director of financial literacy and student aid policy at Higher One. "We need to ensure students entering into college are given the right financial literacy education, tools and support to make sound financial decisions while in college and beyond."
Above all, college financial literacy programs need to take into account a student's "attitudes, motivation and behaviors" in teaching them better money habits, the paper states.