The next generation of borrowers see doom and gloom on their financial horizon two years into the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new study by Junior Achievement USA and Citizens Financial Group Inc.

The fifth annual “Junior Achievement Teens & Personal Finance Survey” was conducted by Wakefield Research, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. teens, ages 13 to 18, between February 18 and 24, 2022, using an email invitation and an online survey.

After two uncertain and often stressful years, a majority of high school students (54%) said they were worried about their financial futures and felt unprepared to finance them, according to Wakefield's findings.

More than two-thirds of teens (69%) said that rising education costs have affected their plans for further education after they graduate from high school. A third of teenage respondents (31%) said they did not expect their plans for higher education to be affected, but almost as many (28%) said they are only considering applying to in-state schools. About a fifth (22%) said they planned to live at home and commute to college, and 10% said they may economize further by getting a two-year degree instead of a four-year degree.

Financial education could be the remedy to quelling students’ anxiety about financing their continued education, the study found; 39% of respondents said their concerns could be addressed with a better understanding of how student loans work, while 38% said it would help to know how education is tied to jobs. Thirty-two percent their concerns could be addressed by having access to lower-cost alternatives to attending college. Nearly half of all teens surveyed (41%) said they had no financial literacy classes in high school.

Attending institutions of higher education has never been more expensive, respondents said. Of those teens planning to pursue a four-year degree, two-thirds (66%) expressed some level of concern about having the technology needed to complete a degree. Half of respondents (52%) cited the cost of devices as a concern, as well as poor Wi-Fi access/connectivity (28%).

In an email response for comment, Maggie Wall, head of diverse growth segments at Citizens, discussed the impact of the study’s findings on financial advisors’ next generation of clientele. She said that the study underscored a lack of confidence among the younger generation, as well as a lack of financial literacy.

“If we want to adequately prepare students to manage their money as adults, money management needs to be built into the school curriculum,” Wall said in the email. “It is very important to discuss basic concepts of saving, borrowing and investing from an early age. It absolutely shocked me when I first saw the survey results and realized that 41% of teens have had no financial literacy classes in school. When students do not receive this basic educational resource, it holds teens back from creating their best lives.”

Wall said she was also surprised by the study’s finding of a decline in the use of traditional financial tools used by teens. Fewer of them were using debit cards (59% used them in 2022 while 62% used them in 2019); fewer of them were using credit cards (only 24% using them in 2022 while 30% did in 2019); and fewer of them were using checkbooks (only 9% did in 2022 while 18% did in 2019).

“To me, this indicates that teens are finding access to cash through other means, potentially including digital options such as Zelle or Venmo,” she said in the email. “I strongly believe that the use of apps will continue to grow and currency in these channels will be the future.”

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., Junior Achievement USA is a member of JA Worldwide, a global non-profit youth organization founded in 1919. Citizens Financial, the banking giant headquartered in Providence, R.I., reported $188.4 billion in assets as of December 31, 2021.