Jumping the hurdle of student debt
By Garrett Mueller, Business Editor
In addition to constant academic stressors, college students must deal with the added difficulty of paying for college tuition and expenses.
Most college students can expect to take out a student loan at some point during their collegiate career in order to make ends meet. Going into debt as a student is challenging and can even be dangerous for those who aren’t fiscally educated. However, there are methods available to reduce the stress and effects of student debt.
The most important skill for a college freshman to learn is budgeting. Many students try to live more comfortably than they can afford during college.
“Number one, you got to realize there’s an issue: … you’ve overextended yourself and are in too much debt,” said local portfolio investment manager Brett Saunders. “ The next step is to come up with a plan, and part of this plan is to budget.”
For many students, college is the first time they will live without the support of a guardian. These circumstances require students to learn how to completely evaluate their expenses, identify where money can be saved, and establish a baseline for living costs. For instance, one could decide to bring a bike to campus over a car, eliminating the need to pay for gas, insurance, parking, or a car itself. Budgeting helps one save money while they have debts.
However, it is easier to skip this step completely by planning ahead before one even encounters school debt. One way for students to do this is by reaching out for scholarships.
“There’s tons of money out there that goes unused every year because people don’t apply for scholarships, and because it’s a lot of work,” high school counselor Tara Vanselow said.
For those attending college, scholarships should be students’ primary economic focus, yet they remain the largest untapped college financial resource. Seniors exhaust themselves with college applications and schoolwork, which often leaves them reluctant to put in the extra work for scholarships.
While students consider themselves lucky when they get more than $10 thousand in scholarships, it is estimated $2.9 billion dollars go unused annually. Scholarships may also seem unattainable due to the large pool of people applying, yet time spent on scholarships inevitably equates to higher economic gain.
It is also important to remember that preparation for college extends further than applying for scholarships or schools. Students must also learn to save their money in order to avoid entering college with empty pockets.
New expenses from accidents or unforeseen financial needs can dry out a college student’s savings surprisingly quickly. Rising debts and lack of money often lead to student stress.
When a student takes on debt and doesn’t know how to deal with it, they tend to choose temporary and artificial fixes. They often get a credit card, max it out, and then sign up with another one. Students should always have a backup plan (that doesn’t include credit cards) when they do not meet their monthly payments.
“Sometimes it’s sacrificing your freetime to work even one or two jobs to help pay [debts] while you’re in school,” Saunders said.
Hopefully, productive students will recognize their problem and then work to fix it. They can not only budget their money, but also their time. This process of resolving financial issues often comes down to how a student makes money. Getting a temporary job is very effective if time permits, especially during breaks or between semesters. Utilizing one’s skills to increase income is just one way to avoid overwhelming debt.
“I started working and saving the summer after high school,” said Taylor Lighthall, a VHS alumna and college student. “I always work when I am not in school, and I had a job for a few months while I was in college.”