In 2014, Western Union made a surprising discovery when surveying millennials about their financial habits: More than 20 percent of them had never written a check.

This may seem unusual to those of us from older generations. After all, many of us have used checks as our primary way of paying the mortgage and other monthly bills.

But millennials–that group of people born between the 1980s and early 2000s–have earned the nickname the “unbanked generation” for a reason. Thanks to the increasingly ubiquitous nature of smartphones and payment apps, young people are not just eschewing checks, but many other functions associated with physical banks. This creates some interesting challenges in how colleges and universities approach financial aid for today’s students.

How a student-loved technology helps a university with financial aid

I began working at Fullerton College, California’s oldest continuously operated community college, in 2009, as the state was beginning to feel the effects of the recession. At the time, our enrollment was rising to an all-time high. Many students and families in the Fullerton community were unemployed or underemployed, returning to school to gain new skills and compete in a slackening labor market.

(Next page: Improving the financial-aid platform)

About the Author:

Greg Ryan is director of financial aid at Fullerton College in Fullerton, Calif.


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