There are places to go for students’ money woes

Emma Carew

College students are thought of as the champions of the Ramen noodle, the kings and queens of the Laundromat and the collectors of free condoms from Boynton Health Service.

The Daily surveyed University students about their financial situation and management.

According to the survey, 78 percent of students receive loans, grants or scholarships through the University.

With tuition rates and fees consistently increasing, students are finding it more difficult to stay on top of their finances.

“With tuition increases, there is the need to find more money to live,” said Darryl Dahlheimer, project manager at Lutheran Social Services Financial Counseling and former Boynton financial counselor.

Debt can increase because students think they need to have their own apartment, their own car and a cell phone, he said.

Credit card offers make it easy for students to attain these objectives, Dahlheimer said, but if they miss a payment, the students might end up with late fees and high interest rates.

When Boynton conducted its health issues survey in 2001, he said, it found a direct correlation between mental stress and credit card debt.

Dahlheimer said that as debt increased, levels of alcohol and tobacco use increased, and GPAs dropped.

At that point Boynton brought LSS Financial Counseling in as a partner to offer free budget counseling and debt management to students, he said. Appointments can be made by calling (888) 577-2227, Dahlheimer said.

First-year student Dennis Ouyang said going to Boynton for financial counseling is on his to-do list.

Ouyang said he spends about 25 hours each month gambling, either online or in casinos, and has lost thousands of dollars.

“My parents know (about the gambling),” he said, “and they’re not too pleased.”

Ouyang said that gambling aside, he manages his finances well.

Of students surveyed, 39 percent reported having bought state lottery tickets in the past year, 27 percent reported playing poker for money and 31 percent reported playing other casino games for money.

“We know (gambling) is an issue, but we really don’t have a good sense of how prevalent it is amongst the student body,” said Dr. Gary Christenson, director of mental health at Boynton.

Christenson said the mental health clinic doesn’t see too many cases of gambling addiction, but suspects that is caused by lack of money available to students for such ventures.

About three-fourths of students surveyed expressed some difficulty in making ends meet each month.

Of students surveyed, 57 percent said education expenses affect their ability to pay for their living necessities (rent, utilities and food), and 72 percent said the costs limit their spending money for dining out and entertainment.

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs, attributes increasing tuition costs and student fees to “the political environment we’re living in.”

Funding cuts at the state and federal levels have resulted in higher tuition rates and student fees, he said.

“The real solution is to have the state and national leaders realize that long-term investment in higher education is worth the strain it may put on the budget at the moment,” Rinehart said.

The burden of funding higher education has shifted from the government to the institution, he said, and is now being pushed onto the individual student.

First-year architecture student Matt Carlson said college costs much more than he thought it would.

“It has definitely changed my view on how I’m going to have to support myself,” said Carlson, whose parents help him with finances.

Carlson said he has a job at University Dining Services to help pay for the little things, like books and CDs.

He said he does not worry about going into debt and just tries to be careful about his spending.

While 95 percent of students surveyed had checkbooks, 73 percent reported having a savings account and 27 percent reported having other investment accounts.

More than half of students reported they either have started saving for retirement or plan to do so in the next five years.

“We live in a culture where saving is not glamorous,” Dahlheimer said.

He said students need to start saving for emergencies and for their future.

A small amount saved or invested when students are in their 20s will grow considerably by the time the students retire or have that emergency, Dahlheimer said.

Students should not feel bad if they don’t know how to manage their finances well, he said, because it’s something that can be learned.

“This is not rocket science,” Dahlheimer said. “This is stuff that’s easy to learn.”