College Freshmen Need to Think About Finances

The Moorestown High School Counseling Department held its fifth annual College Transition Night program in June. The featured speakers this year were Jan Friedman-Krupnick, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Rider University, and Lisa Walko, School Nurse at Moorestown High School. A frequent speaker in past years has been Francine Block, an independent consultant with American College Counseling Services in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The tips and suggestions offered here represent the combined experience and expertise of these regional experts on the school-to-college transition. This is the second in a three part series on preparing for the transition to college life. The first article dealt with the practical issues of what to take to college and what will be needed for the college dorm. This one examines some of the personal finance considerations to be addressed as future freshmen prepare to make the transition to college life. The final article will focus first on the emotional issues associated with the process of “Letting Go.”

While college is expensive, nearly all of the student’s needs are covered by the cost. Students really don’t need a lot that is not already provided. Much of students’ incidental expenses are spent on junk food delivered to the dorm. One advantage of having the student’s credit card linked to the parent’s account is that the parent can monitor student spending. In addition to a credit card, establishing a checking account at a bank near the college may be helpful. Shop around, and try to avoid accounts with minimum balance requirements and penalties for lack of use in summer.

Student debt after college is an important worry for both students and parents, but student credit card debt while in college can be a nightmare. While sixty-five percent of college students have credit cards, twenty percent have four or more. Some studies have reported average credit card balances among college students of $2200. As many as ten percent of college students may carry a monthly balance of $7,000 or more. Student debt is a source of major stress for both parents and students. Set aside some time soon to sit down and discuss these issues before you load the car for that trip to college.

When it comes to computers, printers, scanners and other high-ticket items for college, be sure to do some comparison shopping. Check the electronic stores and compare their prices to offers available through the college book store. Whatever you buy, be sure to identify it as the student’s with markings on the bottom of each device. It goes without saying that the college dorm is no place for valuable heirlooms or expensive jewelry, no matter how good the campus security services are.

Insurance for the contents of dormitory rooms is relatively inexpensive. Consider buying some to cover fire and theft. Speaking of insurance, contact your insurer to find out if you can save on your car insurance while the student is at college. Some companies offer reductions for students attending college more than 300 miles from home.

Congratulations to our recent high school graduates and best wishes for lots of success in college. Watch for the next article, which will address some of the emotional considerations to be addressed by students and parents as future freshmen prepare to make the transition to college life.