Texas Tech University

Student Testimonial: Research Opportunities for Personal Financial Planning Students

Ashley Brister

June 25, 2020

PFP Graduate Student Research Thomas K

Thomas Korankye’s research into student debt is paving the way for better understanding consumer and financial wellbeing

Path to Texas Tech

After earning two master's degrees in Finance and Personal Financial Planning, as well as gaining his Certified Financial Planner™ certification, Thomas Korankye began pursuing a Ph.D. in Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech in 2016.

Coming from Ghana, Thomas said three factors influenced his decision to pursue graduate degrees from Texas Tech.

"First, Texas Tech University's PFP program is ranked among the best in the nation, with the doctoral program being one of the finest in financial-planning education globally," he said. "Second, I saw the availability of experienced, renowned, and dedicated faculty members whose research interests closely aligned with mine, assuring me of obtaining world-class scholarly rigorous training in financial planning. Third, I found a PFP professor, Dr. Charlene M. Kalenkoski, who saw the potential for greatness in me and succeeded in obtaining admission and funding for my doctoral study at Texas Tech."

Opportunities in Personal Financial Planning

With a desire to have a career in teaching, research, and consultancy, Thomas wants to advance the field of financial planning on a global scale.

"As I champion financial planning education, I would be conducting cutting-edge research continuously. I intend to present the research findings at national and international conferences to share with financial-planning practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders with the overall aim of improving the wellbeing of households over the life cycle."


With the costs associated with attending college on the rise, Thomas found that more than 50% of households in the U.S. do not have college savings.

"Given that obtaining a college degree is beneficial, financially constrained households may resort to using student loans to pay for college," he said. "Currently, American households owe over $1.6 trillion in student loans. My research helps to understand how the presence of this kind of consumer debt on the balance sheet of households relates to consumer wellbeing."

Thomas found that although student loans can indeed help college students obtain their degrees, the amount of debt has an impact on one's overall wellbeing. His research also found that student loan debt related negatively to the financial health of borrowers, regardless of gender. Thomas' findings also suggest that the effect of student debt on the life satisfaction of retired households is even more substantial when compared to the general population.

"The same negative relationship is found regardless of whether the loan is used to finance the education of the borrower, the borrower's spouse, or the borrower's children. More importantly, the findings further show that people who borrow to pay for their children's college education are more likely to report lower financial wellbeing compared to those who borrow to pay for the education of self or the education of spouse."

To combat these negative impacts on those with student debt, Thomas offers recommendations for households, financial educators and planners, as well as policy makers to improve one's personal and financial wellbeing.

"The findings on student debt and wellbeing of this study buttress existing studies to show the need for student-loan borrowers to understand the consequences of relying on student debt to pay for post-secondary education on their wellbeing. The findings also emphasize the need for financial educators and planners to educate individuals and households on student debt and its consequences on wellbeing, as well as on the alternative sources of financing postsecondary education. The results from my research reemphasize the need for households to consider selecting and attending the kind of college they could afford without incurring too much debt."