The University of Arizona

New Round of Study Follows Students' Finances, Well-Being

By Jeff Harrison, University Communications | September 17, 2010

The Norton School's APLUS program is now starting to track students as they graduate and move on with their post-college lives.

Soyeon Shim, APLUS principal investigator and director of the UA Norton School.
Soyeon Shim, APLUS principal investigator and director of the UA Norton School.
APLUS logo
APLUS logo
Joyce Serido, co-principal investigator of the Norton School's APLUS study.
Joyce Serido, co-principal investigator of the Norton School's APLUS study.

Researchers at the University of Arizona will embark this month on a new round of an investigation that is tracking the economic fortunes and health of some 2,000 UA students.

Now two years into a 20-year longitudinal study, Arizona Pathways to Life Success for University Students, or APLUS, has been following the students through college and now into adulthood, as some of them graduate and move on.

Soyeon Shim, director of the UA Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Joyce Serido, co-principal investigator of the APLUS study, want to better understand how students form their attitudes and behaviors about personal finance, how their attitudes may have changed over time and how those attitudes contribute to their life success and well-being.

The "Wave 2" leg of the study is funded by Citi Foundation and the National Endowment for Financial Education, or NEFE. NEFE supported the APLUS launch in 2008 with the Wave 1 benchmark study and the Wave 1.5 economic impact study that followed. Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the financial group Citi, has signed on to support the study's data collection process, revisiting questions from the first round of data gathered in 2008. It also will ask students about what they think lies ahead.

"In 2004, Citi and Citi Foundation made a commitment to helping people take control of their finances," said Citi Foundation President and CEO Pam Flaherty. "We see APLUS as key to understanding how young people develop the financial knowledge, attitudes and behaviors they need to achieve greater financial stability and successfully build and preserve assets over the course of their lives."

Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE, said, "It is commendable that the Citi Foundation also will support on this longitudinal research program, which aims to identify the factors that influence the formation of financial values, goals and behaviors that shape the financial practices of young adults."

Shim and Serido collected the APLUS benchmark data in 2008 followed by a smaller round of data collection in 2009 to examine how the nationwide recession was impacting students. The Wave 1.5 arm of the study, while not part of  the original plan, took advantage of the 2008 financial crisis to understand how recession affected student financial attitudes and behaviors.

Overall, APLUS findings include evidence that parents are the primary influences of financial attitudes among young people and that students who had planned to save money on a regular basis fared better during recession than those who did not. Wave 1.5 data indicated that financial well-being is directly associated both with student overall well-being and academic well-being.

Wave 2 data collection begins in September 2010 for reporting in 2011. APLUS findings also have been applied to develop outreach educational programs nationally and locally, including South Tucson.


Kimberley Brooke

John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences