Financial Capability Financial Inclusion Working Paper

Financial Capability and Asset Building in Social Work Education: “The Big Piece Missing?”

Since the 1990s, social workers have renewed the profession’s early focus on improving the financial well-being of vulnerable families. Nonetheless, most social workers receive little training and education about how to help clients build stable and secure financial lives. This study uses in-depth interviews and pre- and post-surveys to examine the effects of a Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) curriculum in six Minority Serving Institutions. In-depth interviews with 24 school administrators, FCAB instructors, and faculty colleagues suggest that faculty chose FCAB content based on course goals, content utility, and alignment with social work education standards. Furthermore, faculty reported gaining confidence and students reported gaining an understanding of and appreciation for FCAB, especially as a result of practical application of FCAB concepts. Pre- and post-surveys with 147 students indicate increased confidence in helping clients with basic financial management, understanding the importance of developing appropriate financial services, and changing personal financial behaviors, such as checking one’s credit report. Despite initial positive results, the curriculum requires more extensive and rigorous testing to inform growing efforts in the profession to improve financial well-being in low-income and financially vulnerable households.
This article was subsequently published in the Journal of Social Work Education’s Special Section on Financial Capability and Asset Building. an earlier version of this article was presented during the April 2015 conference, Financial Capability and Asset Building: Advancing Education, Research, and Practice in Social Work. The conference was hosted by the Center for Social Development and the Financial Social Work Initiative at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.

Subsequent publication: Sherraden, M. S., Birkenmaier, J., McClendon, G. G., & Rochelle, M. (2017). Financial capability and asset building in social work education: Is it “the big piece missing?” Journal of Social Work Education, 53(1), 132–148. doi:10.1080/10437797.2016.121274

Project: Financial Capability and Asset Building


Sherraden, M. S., Birkenmaier, J., Rochelle, M., & McClendon, G. G. (2015). Financial capability and asset building in social work education: “The big piece missing?” (CSD Working Paper No. 15-44). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.