College’s Striking Impact on Students’ Bank Accounts

It’s pretty well-known that college isn’t easy on your bank account. After all, without rich parents or a great scholarship, you’ll likely end up with thousands of dollars of debt that may take you many years to pay off. But in the short term, while you’re still in college, it may actually continue to have an impact on your bank account. OneClass recently completed a survey regarding students’ bank accounts, and whether you’re currently a student or you just want to know more about student finances, there are some interesting takeaways.

The Data by the Numbers

The study had a few different questions, mostly to try and map demographics, but the crux of the survey was a single question: How much money is in your bank account right now? This number included both checking and savings accounts. Here’s the raw data to that set of responses.

  • 13.5% responded $0-50
  • 22.8% responded $51-$500
  • 10.5% responded $501-$1,000
  • 10.3% responded $1,001-$2,000
  • 20.1% responded $2,001-$5,000
  • 13.0% responded $5,001-$10,000
  • 9.8% responded $10,000 or more 

These numbers already showcase some interesting concepts, but it can be hard to truly understand a survey with just the numbers. What do these numbers really mean?

A Substantial Chunk of Students Have Less Than $50 in the Bank

Looking at the numbers, you can see that 13.5% of all students who took the survey said that they currently have between $0-$50 right now. This is a pretty startling number — it’s barely enough to cover a dinner at a casual dine-in restaurant.

It’s true that this number could potentially not tell the whole story. After all, a student taking the survey may have just paid off large bills right before a paycheck. But the fact remains that over one out of eight people who took the survey reported this number, which is a pretty substantial amount.

Over a Third of Students Likely Couldn’t Cover a Surprise Expense

In its assessment of the United States’ financial wellbeing, the Federal Reserve asks a simple question: If you had to pay for a surprise $400 emergency expense tomorrow, how would you pay it? This is relevant because of the sheer number of people who responded that they currently have $500 or less in their banking accounts — definitely not enough to cover any sort of significant expense.

Altogether, 36.3% of students responded that they didn’t have more than $500. Though this statistic may not jump out to you as much as individual measurements, it’s an important one because it has to do with preparing yourself for an emergency. It’s definitely worrisome, regardless of antecedents that may have an impact on the responses.

Most Students Don’t Have Enough for an Emergency Fund

An emergency fund, according to most experts, should be enough to cover 3-6 months of expenses. This emergency fund could cover a person if they were to lose their job abruptly or experience an unexpected medical incident. But that adds up, and 3-6 months is definitely at least $5,000 in most areas. The fact of the matter is, most students just don’t have that much money.

77.2% of students, which is just over three-quarters, reported having $5,000 or less in both their checking and savings accounts. That means it’s not exclusively money stored away for use in case of an emergency. With that many students unprepared for a crisis, it’s definitely sobering to think about other collegiate expenses.


Certainly, some antecedents could have contributed to the results of this survey. After all, you can’t control for everything or ask every question about students’ finances. But it does give an important general conceptualization of students’ current financial wellbeing. What can you learn from this study? If you’re a current college student, it showcases how important it is to focus on maintaining your finances well. If you’re interested in going into college, it offers some insight into how important it is to build up a safety net of savings. Either way, you should definitely take heed of this information.