The Intersection of Sense of Belonging and Financial Hardship Among University Students
Social Work Educators’ Response
Keywords:sense of belonging, campus climate, financial hardship, student support, retention, success, socioeconomic status
This study examines the largely unexplored connection between sense of belonging and financial hardship among college students. Previous research indicates that a variety of demographic factors can impact sense of belonging, including ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and age. One demographic factor that has not been sufficiently examined within the context of sense of belonging is financial status. This cross-sectional study collected data from 958 students at a single Midwestern university. Approximately half of the student participants reported experiencing financial hardship. Furthermore, students who had experienced financial hardship reported a significantly lower sense of belonging as compared to students who had not experienced financial hardship. Analyses also revealed that even when controlling for other demographic factors, financial hardship remained a significant predictor of students’ sense of belonging. We posit that academic success is connected to both sense of belonging and financial hardship among students, as experiences of financial hardship negatively impact the sense of belonging within university communities. Social work educators are ideally suited to design, implement, and evaluate necessary support services which promote financial wellbeing, and consequently sense of belonging and academic success. As such, social work educators are presented with the opportunity to pivot and embrace new opportunities to serve financially disenfranchised students.
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