Trellis Company’s latest study reveals significant financial challenges facing students and impacting their ability to continue and complete a college education

Round Rock, TX – Today’s college students are facing a number of financial stressors that can impact their ability to stay in school and ultimately graduate. Whether paying tuition at the beginning of the semester or meeting reoccurring monthly expenses, many students endure hardships and face uncertainties with regards to their finances.

Helping individual colleges better understand the financial strains and concerns experienced by their students is a primary goal of Trellis’ annual Student Financial Wellness Survey (SFWS).

The value of the study

Trellis’ SFWS examines four areas that impact the overall financial wellness of students: 1) student financial security; 2) basic needs security; 3) paying for college and managing debt; and, 4) student perceptions and use of institutional support.

“Colleges that monitor the financial wellness of students are better able to maximize the effectiveness of their student retention initiatives,” said Jeff Webster, Trellis Director of Research. “Institutions with a deep understanding of the financial challenges faced by their students can best craft interventions to address the reasons why students leave school without a credential. For many, these reasons have to do with finances.”

The Trellis SFWS provides a vital mechanism schools can use to assess the financial wellness of their students; providing a benchmark for later interventions, and a method for identifying categories of students who may be at risk of leaving school without a degree.

Key findings

The Fall 2018 implementation of the Trellis SFWS surveyed 351,806 undergraduate students from 58 colleges and universities in 12 states.

  • 63% of students say they would have trouble getting $500 in cash or credit in an emergency.
  • 77% of students have run out of money at least once in the past 12 months; 34% have run out of money five or more times in the past year.
  • 65% of students say they worry about having enough money to pay for school.
  • 58% of respondents who borrowed a student loan said they have more student loan debt than they expected to have at this point.
  • 68% of respondents who borrowed a student loan were less than confident they would be able to pay off their student debt.
  • 50% of students show signs of housing insecurity – struggling to pay rent/utilities or the need to move frequently; 16% of students indicated they were homeless at some point in the past year.
  • More than half of students show signs of low food security (25%) or very low food security (30%) – skipping meals, eating less or less nutritious food – due to finances.
  • 17% of students surveyed provide financial support for their parents/guardians while in school.

“The findings from this survey underscore the financial challenges and anxieties facing college students today,” said Kasey Klepfer, Trellis Senior Research Analyst and Project Coordinator. “The good news is that many institutions of higher education are already using the information provided through their participation in the SFWS to implement promising interventions and wrap-around services on their campuses. In this report, we also try to highlight the innovative work colleges are doing to improve academic outcomes among struggling students.”

Accessing the report

An aggregate report of the Trellis SFWS can be downloaded at

How to participate

Participating in Trellis’ SFWS is free to schools. Each participating school receives an individualized report for their institution that includes a comparison group of national results. Sample reports can be accessed at

Enrollment for the Fall 2019 and 2020 implementations of the Trellis SFWS is now underway. Institutions that would like to participate in a future survey should visit:


About Trellis Company
Trellis Company, formerly TG, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation with the dual mission of helping student borrowers successfully repay their education loans and promoting access and success in higher education.

We have a nearly 40-year successful track record of delivering positive outcomes for students and institutions. Our strong philanthropic heritage of giving through grants to colleges, universities, and research groups remains focused on improving student outcomes, especially to assist underserved students and families, and to help institutions navigate the changing landscape of higher education.

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