A 2016 study on financial stress and general anxiety in college students found that financial stress is a rising cause of anxiety. Students, especially those who do not receive financial assistance from parents or family, may be carrying an immense burden of getting themselves through college on their own, and tuition is only part of this financial burden.
In a 2018 survey on how people are paying for college, 47 percent of families paid by income and savings, 13 percent of which came from the students themselves. After housing, food and textbooks, the cost of attending college becomes a lot to take on. The costs of textbooks and materials have drastically increased, averaging over $1,200 annually per student. In the past three decades, there has been a 1,041-percent increase in textbook costs since 1977, which is more than three times the rate of inflation in the United States.
Unfortunately, the cost of everything college-related seems to be going up. In 2017, more than 50 percent of college students took on loans, which averaged $26,900 for four-year public schools. This means each graduate pays about $200 to $300 a month to these loans. For many, the pressure of taking on loans and getting through the semester with the additional costs of textbooks, food and other expenses is overwhelming. While we may wish that tuition costs were lower and our loans would cease to exist, there are proactive ways in which students can learn to manage their finances now to help alleviate some of these pressures and fears.
I, for one, was absolutely clueless when it came to looking at colleges and understanding what it would cost me to go to school. The universities I applied to ranged from state schools costing about $20,000 a year to private schools that cost more than $80,000. While the small private schools with beautiful gothic architecture nestled in the suburbs of a nearby city enticed me, I was fortunate enough to have parents who were able to see the big picture of the ugly debt I would be taking on by attending one of these schools. With that, my mom sat me down at the kitchen table and made me calculate the yearly cost of each school, including the estimated increase in tuition each year. While the cost of college seemed straightforward enough, I was unaware of annual increases in tuition, as well as the extra costs and university fees that often go under the radar. Estimating financial aid, and then recalculating costs based on this aid, felt complicated, and while the scholarships I received for some schools were appealing on paper, I soon realized I would still not be able to afford to attend some of the universities.
Seeing it all on paper written in my own handwriting grounded me and helped me make the financially conscious decision to attend Binghamton University. Conversations about money are important to have as young adults taking on the massive expense of attending college, which is why it is so important to seek help from people with financial experience.
While talking about money or looking at finances can be overwhelming, and a topic that many of us would rather avoid, there are resources available on campus that can help students make financially conscious decisions and give them the opportunity to educate themselves about financial stressors they may be experiencing. BU is working with Visions Federal Credit Union “to help improve student financial literacy and financial wellness.” In January 2017, the University opened the Financial Wellness Center, located in the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development. The Financial Wellness Center can educate students on “topics such as budgeting, credit cards, saving, insurance, student loans and investments.” They also conduct B-Money Smart Workshops that cover a variety of topics relevant to student finances.
Working on financial wellness now can help students get through college with a plan, and may help them to be more successful after graduation by developing good habits and money management skills. From the daunting task of taking out loans, and eventually paying them off, to smaller tasks like paying off a credit card each month, confronting financial pressures may ultimately reduce stress by making students feel more in control of their finances. Besides utilizing resources such as the Financial Wellness Center, students can take steps on their own, such as addressing financial concerns early on, staying organized, utilizing student discounts and setting goals for the future.
These habits may make students feel more in control of things that may seem very much out of their control, such as debt and mounting costs of attending school. Financial wellness is something that students need to work for, and should not be taken on alone.
Sophia LoBiondo is a sophomore majoring in political science.