Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

The Independent

Practical Financial Ideas for the College Student

January 23, 2012

Filed under Letters to the Editor

Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 22:01 It's obvious that as students, you should avoid getting into debt. Look around and read some business publications such as Wall Street Journal, The Economist and others and you will see all kinds of headlines about European countries in debt and how much trouble they're in. Just like some countries – people in general, and students in particular get into the trap of overspending, which leads to debt. Student loans are great, but only to a degree. Your college education should not be financed solely by student loans. Remember, student loans aren't a debt you can get from under. It's the type of debt that cannot be wiped off even in the case of a bankruptcy. So think twice about how much you want to borrow. Do not borrow more than you can realistically afford. This level will be different for each student. As far as interest goes, the student loan interest – once in repayment status – is tax deductible, which essentially makes the interest rate lower for the student. Now if you ask how to finance your education, here are some suggestions: 1.Tuition Reimbursement – This is a great way to finance your education. Some employers offer this because they receive tax breaks, and it's good fore personnel as they become more valuable to the company. Therefore, it's a win-win situation. The problem – you have to be working for such employers and there may be some rules such as the need to maintain a certain G.P.A., etc. 2.Family Members – This is another great way to finance your future. Usually, there are some kinds of tax benefits for the philanthropic family member, plus there's the added bonus of their happiness for helping you achieve your dreams. Even if you cannot get them to pay 100% tuition, every little bit helps – you can even try to convince them to at least pay for some of your books! 3.Financial Aid – This is federal financial help for the students that are enrolled and do not have to be repaid. You will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application. There are limitations as to what it will pay for, but in general, your tuition and fees are included. You even get a stipend for books, supplies, and transportation on the CTA. The FAFSA is based on students demonstrated financial needs, rather than grades. You can read more about the benefit of taking advantage of this program at www.fafsa.ed.gov 4.Grants and Scholarships – This is also a fantastic way of paying for your education. Now the problem is that there are limited amounts of funding and you must be awarded the available funds. As around, especially at the in the Scholarships Office located on the 2nd floor of Enrollment Services office – house in the same location as Financial Aid. You can also search for scholarships that aren't through the university on the web. Ask your advisers what – if any – grants are available also. The beauty of the grants/scholarships is that you don't have to repay those. However, you have to do your homework to get them! 5.Loans – This should be your absolute last resort for funding your education. There are private and federal loans. Parents can also borrow on behalf of their dependent undergraduate students. I do not recommend loans, but if the question comes down to whether or not you can continue your education – I would say to go for the loan. Speak to a Financial Aid advisor for more information about your options. Now there are lots of resources on the web that you can explore, but you have to start somewhere, right? The first place you should start is at: http://www.neiu.edu/NEIU%20Departments/Administrative%20Departments/ Financial%20Aid/Financial_Aid.html   Victor Peters, Assistant Director, Office of University Budgets - Contributor...