Live like a student now, or later, says financial aid director
One week after the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FASFA, became available for the 2019-2020 term, the director of financial aid at UH said students need to be aware that the deadline for Texas aid has moved up, along with the dangers of not living frugally now.
Half of graduates in 2016 took out student loans, and 71 percent of undergraduates applied for financial aid, according to College Data. Extra financial aid is disbursed to students if there is any extra money after payments for the semester are made, and UH financial aid administrators caution students about the cost of spending that money.
“My advice is, and I’ve been in financial aid getting close to 40 years — live like a student now or live like a student later,” said Executive Director of Scholarships and Financial Aid Bridget Jans.
Jans said students need to minimize the amount of extraneous spending funded by their refund, because unnecessary money spent today will cost much more in 10 years — the standard load repayment period — due to interest.
The deadline for getting the FASFA turned in to be eligible for aid from Texas has moved up this year to Jan. 15 from March 15 in previous years, according to College For All Texans. But continuing students may have some leeway, Jans said.
Sports administration junior Sloan Moyle said his parents pay his tuition, but he works three jobs to cover other expenses like textbooks and car bills. Moyle said he doesn’t apply for financial aid anymore, partly because he didn’t receive any funding when he did.
“I think it should be saved for people who can’t afford (college),” Moyle said. “My parents are fortunate enough to be able to do it. If I have to bite the bullet on some books, then I’m willing to do that and someone else can get (financial aid).”
UH Financial Literacy counselor Jacqueline Walker recommends students know the expected out-of-college for the job they desire. When students with loans graduate, the Department of Education makes them take exit counseling for all the loans they took out.
Food tends to be a big expense for students, Walker said, but those with a meal plan should be minimizing the times they eat out and using the meal plan as much as possible.
Minimizing food and other expenses can get students into the habit of paying themselves first, Walker said. Saving money now can make it easier once students are in the professional world and want to buy houses or cars, or retire.
“It can get overwhelming, especially when you are getting a lot more money then you were in college,” Walker said. “It’s definitely good to get started early on that.”
The State of Texas, after passing a bill in 2017, will start sending students a letter every year stating how much debt they have and an estimate of future payments, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
“I suspect we will have some juniors and seniors who are going ‘I borrowed how much?’,” Jans said.
UH also provides opportunities for students to obtain funding outside student loans, such as through donations.
Last year, the Cougar Emergency Fund was created just before Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area. The University reached out to donors and $1.2 million was donated to help students affected by Harvey, Jans said.
“If we were to have another major crisis, I would like to think our donors would step up again and assist us,” Jans said.