Destroying the nightmare


Tasiyagnunpa Dubray

Do you refuse to balance your checkbook? Have you ever actually read your loan statements or your bank statements? Do you think you don’t need a budget because you’re in college?

Join the club. According to the Education Assistance Corporation’s Noreen Pulling, most students reach college without having any personal finance knowledge whatsoever.

Things like balancing a checkbook to more advanced things like wise use of a credit card can get out of hand for students who haven’t been taught the basics. However, not knowing how to keep finances in order is no excuse to stay that way.

“It’s not that we’re ignorant to it, but just that we haven’t been taught. If we haven’t learned it in high school then it’s high time we learn it in college,” Pulling says.

Starting this semester, students having problems with budgets and financial planning, or those who just wonder where the heck to start being money smart, can get some advice and ideas from the same office which puts that money into students’ hands in the first place.

Financial planning is about as fun as booster shots, but just as necessary. The Financial Aid Office (FAO), Education Assistance Corporation (EAC) and Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) have many options for those wanting to be financially independent.

If you’ve found that your money situation has reached epidemic proportions, the FAO can direct you to Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Lutheran Social Services to help you back on the road to financial health.

Jay Larsen, SDSU director of financial aid, says Julie Hamer and Carrie Johnson, two financial aid counselors, are ready to field student questions.

The EAC is funding the first CCCS consultation for students by distributing to schools financial counseling services referral vouchers. These vouchers are available at the FAO to pay for the first visit to CCCS. Pulling says she hopes students take advantage of this new opportunity.

“There’s a stigma with consumer credit counseling that needs to be addressed. Don’t feel sheepish going in,” she says.

There are some things you can do to inoculate yourself against the common college disease – bad credit:

First, find your checkbook, your bills and loan information and make an appointment with CCCS. It will be easier for them to assist you if you have all your records in order. Pulling says that even if it’s just a file folder with all your records stuffed inside it will help. If you aren’t sure whether you have all the information you need regarding your loans ask the FAO. They should be able to provide copies, Pulling says.

Next, ask the FAO for the EAC voucher, also be sure to tell CCCS that you will be using the EAC voucher.

Do you balance your checkbook every month? If not, start. If you have no idea where to begin, and Pulling said that’s not unusual for college students, CCCS can help you out or there are financial tools on EAC’s website that will walk you through.

Whether you get assistance from CCCS or not, the next big step is a spending plan or budget. Look at your bank statement to see how many little checks you write. If you’re writing so many little checks that balancing your checkbook is a nightmare then you probably don’t have a good handle on your spending. Again, CCCS can help you out, or you can refer to one of EAC’s web tools.