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18 Insights to Know From Four Years of Student Surveys

10/24/2023 8:00 PM

Offering a great student experience is essential to recruitment, enrollment and retention, and the best experience is built on trust and simplicity.

Colleges and universities earn trust and provide simple, smooth processes in many ways, from big things like registering for courses and making tuition payments to small, everyday things like paying for parking and a coffee before the first class of the day.

Technology not only facilitates these processes, but can make them secure and reliable, as well as quick and easy. As the fourth year of TouchNet’s Student Financial Experience Report shows, investing in digital and mobile technology creates the easy and trustworthy interactions that today’s students expect across their collegiate experience.

Today’s students are the mobile generation. They want life on campus to operate the same as life off campus, with mobile phones and apps helping make payments and more. That is why nearly all students—95% of them—use at least one app to interact with their school.

Investing in technology solutions pays off, as nearly half of students reported that it played a major role in their decision to attend their current college or university—a 41% increase from 2022 to 2023.

Increasing trust in technology

In every year of our survey, students have shown increased trust in mobile and app technologies and a decreased level of fear that someone might gain unauthorized access to their payment apps. When asked whether they agreed with statements about phone and payment security, we’ve seen clear trends from 2020 to 2023:

  • 33% more students agree that, “I feel secure making payments (bills/purchases) using lesser-known payment companies, as long as I learned about them from a credible source.”
  • 9% more students agree that, “I feel secure making payments (bills/purchases) using Venmo, PayPal, Google Pay, or Apple Pay.”
  • 14% fewer students agree that, “I am worried about someone hacking my phone and having access to my payment apps.”
  • 37% fewer students agree that, “I am worried about someone stealing my phone and having access to payment apps.”

Mobile technology preference is about trust and simplicity

Students' increasing use of mobile phones and apps reflect their trust in these technologies and preference for their convenience and ease of use:

  • 88% of students use their college/university mobile app 2-3 times a week or more
  • App usage on a smartphone for at least three hours a day jumped dramatically from 58% in 2022 to 72% in 2023
  • Conversely, general device usage of a computer for at least three hours a day continues its year-over-year decline, falling from 66% in 2022 to 58% in 2023

Students valuing trust and simplicity is also reflected in their attitudes toward payment apps:

  • 84% of students use smartphone apps to make payments, 17% higher than 2022
  • For three consecutive years, the most important feature students want in a payment app is ease of use and the second most important feature students want is security
  • Three of the top five features students wanted are related to simplicity: ease of use, easily available, and available in a mobile wallet

Popularity of payments via mobile wallets

Their growing use of and preference for mobile wallets is yet another example of students’ valuing trust and simplicity. They prefer the secure, quick, and friction-less experience of making payments with their phones, and are moving away from payments made via desktop, laptop, and checks:

  • 90% of students said the main reason for preferring mobile payments is because they are more efficient/quicker or because apps are easy to use
  • From 2020 to 2023, there was a 30% decrease in the use of desktop or laptop computers to make payments as students shifted to mobile payments
  • Only 7% of students said they wrote checks in 2023, down from 11% last year

The preference for digital payments via mobile wallets is clear and the rise in popularity has been fast. Apple Pay, in particular, has seen a drastic increase in popularity among today’s students:

  • In 2023, 93% of students made at least one digital payment using Venmo, Paypal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay, increasing 7% from 2022
  • Apple Pay use had a nearly 70% increase from 2022 to 2023, and now nearly half of all students use it
  • Apple Pay use for paying bills had a 92% increase from 2022 to 2023
  • Apple Pay use at campus stores saw a 700% increase from 2020 to 2023, replacing cash as the second most popular in-person payment method at campus stores
  • Apple Pay use for online purchases made through a campus store saw a 300% increase in just one year

Learn more and download the Report

You can gain more insights into students’ tech and money habits by visiting the Student Financial Experience Report page where you can download a free copy of the 2023 Student Financial Experience Report. Our fourth annual survey provides valuable research to inform higher ed professionals administering services across campus.