Heading off to college is exciting for many students, but it can also be hectic, with everything from moving day, to their class schedule to juggle. But, one part of student life that often gets overlooked at first, is one that can have lasting consequences, and that is figuring out how they are going to manage their money. Our Sarah Blazonis has tips on steps that students can take now to save them trouble down the road.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- When it comes to the dollars and cents of higher education, the focus of many students and their parents is tuition.
"A lot of people aren't looking for the next step, which is those incidental costs once students are here at school," said Kate Bellefeuille, Director of Financial Aid for Onondaga Community College.
Financial aid officials recommend setting up a debit account. Parents or students can deposit a set amount each month, and it also gives parents a quick way to get their kids cash in an emergency.
"It gives them a chance to manage their money a little bit, and a lot of students haven't had a chance to do that yet," said Bellefeuille.
Credit cards are another popular choice, but they require more caution. The website StatisticBrain.com says 76 percent of college students have credit cards, and their average credit card debt is more than $3,000. Credit counselors recommend sticking to one card with no annual fee and an interest rate below 15 percent.
"Use it to make a small purchase every month, pay that balance off in full, that'll help you to build your credit. It's just important to make that payment on time every month," said Danielle Peck, a certified credit counselor with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions.
Credit card debt isn't all that students have to worry about. Financial aid officials at OCC say for the first time, student loan debt has outpaced credit card debt, with the average graduate in the class of 2011 owing $27,000.
As a result, officials say many schools are taking the lead in helping students become more financially literate.
"What's going to be your average salary when you leave, and what, based on your current situation, do you have as far as debt and will you have the ability to pay that back going forward," Bellefeuille said are some of the questions officials try to get students to think about.
With 20 percent of 18-24 year olds dealing with some form of debt hardship, they are questions counselors and school officials expect to hear more often. For more information, please visit ClearpointCreditCounseling.org and SUNYOCC.edu.