For many, this academic year brought with it as much of a return to “normalcy” as possible. While some campuses were 100 percent back to in-person learning, others embraced a hybrid approach that has become the “norm” for much of the nation—in education, in business, and beyond.

Within the third annual Student Financial Experience Report, you will see the shifts in student behaviors caused by the pandemic still holding true in some areas—as if these behaviors or preferences are here to stay. While in other areas, they have reverted to somewhat predictable student behaviors and preferences.

The intent of this report is to observe, document, analyze and present the financial experience of higher ed students as it exists. We do this to obtain key data gathered from facets of student behaviors, expectations, and opinions that college and university leaders might not otherwise have access to. Additionally, we identify trends, gaps, and opportunities that intersect the student financial life cycle—which plays a fundamental role in their success.

Students Lean into Mobile Apps for College Experience

It comes as no surprise that nearly all higher ed students surveyed responded that they use at least one smartphone app to interact with their college or university. This statistic has remained consistent year over year, indicating a lasting trend.

Additionally, 88 percent of those same students say they use their college or university app(s) at least 2-3 times per week. Not only are the vast majority of students using a campus app, they are using them frequently and for many purposes, which you can find listed below.

Beyond college/university apps, 58 percent of students reported using smartphone apps in general for at least three hours a day. This represents a decrease of 16 percentage points from the 2020-2021 academic year, which is to be expected as more students return to in-person classes and aligns with the overall cultural trend of reclaiming “normalcy” by getting offline and engaging in person more often. And although overall usage is lower than the previous year, this means more than half of all students are heavy daily users of mobile apps.

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Campus App Features

What Students Say They Want vs. What They Know About & Actual Use
4 out of 5 Students Use Mobile Banking

As we explore how students currently use and want to use smartphone apps on campus, it’s also important to understand their relationship with payment apps and mobile banking.

When asked how they interact with their bank, 73 percent of students use mobile banking to make deposits, and 80 percent said they use mobile banking to pay bills or transfer money sometimes or often. This is an increase of seven percentage points in just two years.

When asked how frequently they use smartphone apps to make payments, 72 percent of those surveyed stated sometimes or often. Although the number of students who are making payments through their institution’s apps is still limited, the overall positive trend of mobile banking and making payments through smartphone apps indicates students have a preference for mobile payments.

Top Concerns for Payment Apps

We also asked students to rate how important various payment app features were to them. The top three responses included ease of use, security, and widespread availability. These are important factors to remember as higher education institutions work to enhance their campus apps and add more payment features.

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Digital Payments Gain Popularity with Students

In addition to making payments through apps, we also use this survey as an opportunity to gauge students' attitudes and behaviors with digital payments such as Apple Pay (and other digital wallets), Venmo, PayPal and more.

57 percent of students agreed with the statement “I feel secure making payments (bills/purchases) using Venmo, PayPal, Google Pay or Apple Pay.”

And when asked how frequently they use those same alternative payment methods, 63 percent said they used at least one of those methods sometimes or often.

Apple Pay and Google Pay usage trending up

As digital wallets gain popularity in the general consumer market, we continue to measure the percentage of students who are frequently using them. For the 2021-2022 academic year, 25 percent of students used Apple Pay sometimes or often for purchases, which represents a 56 percent increase from the previous year. Usage of Google Pay is lagging behind with 12 percent of students, but the percentage of students saying they use Google Pay doubled from the previous two years.

About the Report

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The Student Financial Experience Report reviews data gathered from a ten-minute, online survey utilizing accepted standards of statistical practice. Conducted annually since 2020, 300 university and college students are surveyed each year. Respondents are required to be smartphone owners 18 or older currently enrolled at a higher education institution, and represent a cross section of first year undergraduate students through graduate students from a variety of large and small, public and private institutions. The survey and report are sponsored by TouchNet.

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