Texas Tech University

Financial Literacy, Wellness Focus of Graduate Student's Research

Amanda Bowman

December 16, 2020

Doctoral student Tiffany Murray finds that examining the role of financial literacy among college students is key to supporting collegiate financial wellness.

Student debt and student debt forgiveness have been hot-button issues for the last several years. While many lawmakers want to "cancel" student debt, there is still the issue of many young people – and many not-so-young people – who don't know how to properly manage their finances.

Tiffany Murray
Tiffany Murray

There is a plethora of books on money management, yet the average American has more than $90,000 of debt. Tiffany Murray, a doctoral student majoring in personal financial planning in Texas Tech University's College of Human Sciences, is conducting research to see how financial literacy and wellness can be implemented on college campuses.

Financial literacy

So, what does it mean to be financially literate? It means that a person possesses the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting and investing. Murray is specifically focusing on college students for her research.

"My research focuses on examining the role of financial literacy among college students as it pertains to their financial wellness," she said. "In my paper, I study the determinants of high financial literacy in college students who answered specific personal finance-related questions. Hopefully, I'll be able to provide insights to colleges and universities that would like to assist with implementing or refining financial wellness initiatives on their campuses."

Murray's research found certain students fared better with financial literacy and wellness than others.

"Students with high financial literacy include those who receive advice from financial advisers before and during college; students who have taken a personal finance course before or during college; and business majors, students with higher grade point averages, students enrolled in four-year institutions, and students who are married, white or men," Murray said. "Based on the findings, recommendations include implementing financial education in high school and at the collegiate level.

"College administrators also may consider policies that would make a personal finance course a requirement for graduation as well. Furthermore, efforts targeting specific groups like females, minorities, first-year students and students enrolled in a two-year or certificate program may also be helpful. These suggestions may be the key to increasing collegiate financial literacy, which may ultimately help with achieving collegiate and lifetime financial wellness."

Murray said she wanted to pursue this kind of research because it affects everyone.

"Everyone has to deal with personal finances in some form or fashion," she said. "However, everyone doesn't get the opportunity to receive specific education geared toward that subject. I just find it so frustrating that there are requirements for certain courses, but not one for something that would assist all individuals with their finances, especially in the areas of cash management, insurance and retirement, to name a few."

Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition

Every year, Texas Tech's Graduate School hosts the Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) competition. Developed by The University of Queensland in 2008, the competition cultivates graduate students' academic, presentation and research communication skills.

Murray's 3MT™ slide
Murray's 3MT™ slide

The competition supports the capacity of graduate students to effectively explain research in three minutes or less, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience while using just one static PowerPoint slide.

Murray chose to participate in the 3MT™ competition because it offered her an opportunity to stretch herself, she said. Her efforts were rewarded as she not only placed second, but also won the People's Choice category.

"It was awesome," Murray said. "I was so excited others felt I was deserving of both honors, especially from all of the disciplines that were represented. I believe it showed I was able to speak in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience and that my research topic resonates with others.

"My goal is to continue my research in the hopes that I can spread the word about personal finance courses and peer financial coaching programs."

Murray said she couldn't have done it without the encouragement from the people closest to her.

"I'd like to thank my family for their continued love and support, and the faculty, staff and my classmates in the personal financial planning department," she said. "I'd also like to thank the members of my dissertation committee, Dr. Dorothy B. Durband, Dr. Charlene M. Kalenkoski and Dr. Russell James from Texas Tech and Dr. Catherine P. Montalto from Ohio State University. Finally, a huge thank you to the Graduate School for continuing to support and push graduate students with these types of events and to Mari Baeza for coordinating."