The financial literacy of college athletes is a pressing concern –

Since the implementation of the NIL laws in July 2021, some athletic departments have partnered with organizations to support student brand development and access to potential offers. Others have hired NIL coordinators who straddle the areas of college athlete development, marketing, and compliance.

In my research with Kansas State and Texas State colleagues studying financial literacy in college athletes, we highlighted the importance of coupling financial knowledge with competent strategies for making financial decisions. Many students lack a support system that provides financial education, such as parents showing them how to budget or save money. So, without practice, these students may lack confidence in making financial decisions. Meanwhile, research has shown that Gen Z athletes are overconfident and can make risky financial decisions.

On a scale of 1 to 10, the athletes in our study ranked their interest in financial literacy as 7.3. We surveyed students with three basic financial questions before and after receiving financial education. The results showed that students may know the information needed to make financial decisions, but may not know how to best apply it. They also struggled to retain information from the financial education they received. Only a fifth of the athletes we surveyed followed a monthly budget. Food by far dominated the expenses of the athletes, apart from any food provided to them by the athletic department.

Athletes in our study expressed many different ways of learning about personal finances, and no one method stood out. Interactive tools like Financial Football by Visa and the NFL or Invesco QQQ “How Not to Suck the Money”– in an official partnership with the NCAA – are engaging ways to introduce students to financial literacy. However, athletic departments need to offer more. Released in June 2022, a white paper of the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals (N4A) Student-Athlete Development Task Force calls for guiding college-athlete development outcomes, the first of which is: “Demonstrate fundamental enhancement skills personal improvement, including cultural competency, emotional intelligence and financial literacy.” Financial education is a fundamental component of the Personal Improvement Standard, the first standard for college athlete development programs recommended in the document .

Our research suggested that athletic departments consider working with an existing business partner in the financial sector, invite accountants and financial advisors (perhaps former athletes) to speak with students, offer peer-to-peer financial advice and /or professionals and encourage enrollment in Money 101 courses if offered at the institution. College athletes are adults and should be empowered to make sound financial decisions when entering into NIL agreements, which are here to stay.

Lisa M. Rubin is an associate professor in the College of Education at Kansas State University, where she focuses on student services in varsity athletics. She previously worked as an academic and life skills counselor in the Nebraska and UNLV athletic departments.

Sarah J. Greer