It’s no secret that college is expensive. Though some areas are trying to offer students more in the way of financial assistance, attempting to help them get through a 4-year degree, other areas are refusing to budge, with some even removing certain student aid. For most people, that means leaving college with a hefty amount of debt. But even while you’re in college, you might find yourself living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s why it’s useful to measure how much money students have in their bank account right now.

Most Students Have Less Than $2,000 Right Now

The first thing you’ll notice looking at all this information is that on the whole, the situation seems somewhat dire. Of the 399 students who responded, 57.1% reported that they had $2,000 or less in their checking and savings accounts combined. This unfortunately low number actually makes sense — with tuition, textbooks, food, and housing, it’s hard to get a handle on your financial wellness.

The other segment, of course, covers everything from $2,001 up. The study asked in irregular groupings, which may have implications when it comes to understanding students’ current financial standings. These groups included $0-$50, $51-$500, $501-$1,000, $1,001-$2,000, $2,001-$5,000, $5,001-$10,000, and $10,000 and up.

Nearly Half of Students Have Less Than $1,000 Available

Even more worrying than that, however, is the fact that nearly half of all students — 48.6% — reported that their checking and savings accounts combined had less than $1,000. That’s a combination of 13.5% that reported $0-$50, 22.8% that reported $51-$500, and 10.5% that reported $501-$1,000.

Many students work while they learn, but these are often entry-level jobs that don’t pay very well. When combined with individual bills, which can include housing, food, and textbooks, it’s unfortunately understandable that so many students would be struggling.

Your Major Matters — But It Might Not Be That Simple

On a strictly literal level, Mathematics and Business majors tend toward having the most money. Students in either major most commonly reported having $2,001-$5,000 in their bank accounts, with Sciences and Engineering most commonly reporting $51-$500 and Arts and Education most commonly reporting $0-$50.

But of course, it’s not necessarily that simple. Students in these majors may have more opportunities for scholarships, more financial support, and other benefits not afforded to individuals in other majors. These majors are also notoriously expensive to go through — it may be that more well-off students choose these majors.

Your Financial State May Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Another piece of the puzzle regards what year students are in. This study looked at students in first, second, and third years. Of them all, first-year students tended toward having the most in their bank account, with $2,001-$5,000 compared to the $51-$500 most common for second and third-year students. When it comes to median numbers, second-year students overtook first-year students, with a median response of $1,001-$2,000, but third-year students actually had a worse median answer at $0-$50.

Most students go to college hoping to better their financial state, but if this shows anything, it’s that college definitely doesn’t do that immediately. You should expect that your financial state will worsen while you’re in college, even if you’re hoping to have it change once you get out.


Financial straits vary wildly between college students, and two students from similar backgrounds may have different experiences when it comes to college finances. These issues are expounded by the fact that the study might not take into account bills that were paid immediately before the student took the study, “allowances” that the student’s parents pay out, or specific types of financial aid. Still, it’s a great way to take a general look at student finances. Make sure you keep these financial facts in mind as you look into college for yourself.

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