Students speak out about financial struggles

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The Spectrum

College is typically the first time money becomes a concern for young adults. From selecting a college to balancing class and work to deciding whether or not to go to graduate school, students face constant financial uncertainty.

According to the CIRP Freshman Survey, UCLA's annual survey of entering students at four-year U.S. colleges and universities, more than half of the students reported "some" concern about financing college in 2009. Additionally, 41.6 percent of the students reported that cost was a "very important" factor in their college decision.

Many students chose UB because of its low-cost public research education, but some still face financial stress, barely affording tuition, and their academics suffer as a result.

"It's common to hear from students that they're struggling in school because of their financial situations," said Brian Waldrop, the director of the College of Arts and Sciences Student Advisement and Services.

In an April 2009 article in The Spectrum about the effects of the economic downtown on UB students, Elizabeth Snider, the Associate Director/Clinical Director of Counseling Services, explained how financial difficulties wear away at students' lives.

"Financial struggles can increase the symptoms of depression and anxiety in people," Snider said. "It can also contribute to sleep difficulty, decreased appetite and trouble concentrating. All of these symptoms interfere with a person's ability to be successful in school."

She added that financial struggles are often a primary reason for students to seek counseling at UB, and often it is an additional stressor that complicates other matters.

Although the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that our nation's Great Recession is "officially over," its effects still linger for many UB students as they attempt to plan out their education and their career.

Below are some stories from a group of UB students whose financial situations affect their academic decisions:

My financial situation definitely affects my decisions here at UB. If money were not an issue, I as a chemistry major would not be switching from the BS program to a BA. Due to the semester I spent abroad in Rome I can't afford to stay and finish the Bachelor of Science requirements on time. I wish I could stay an extra semester to do them, but I can't afford it. – Stephen Stauffer, senior chemistry major

Because of my financial situation, I pick up as many hours as I can at work. That means that my time that should be spent studying and reading is spent working, so I don't do as well as I should. - Darya Shchenina - junior social science interdisciplinary major

When I was younger I started college right out of high school. Unfortunately, before I finished I was turned down for loans while I was going to school part time so I wasn't able to finish. I stopped going to school for eight years before it became a financial possibility again. Now that I can afford to attend, I take class much more seriously. I think I truly appreciate it. – Jessica Stewart, senior psychology major

The reason I am in school is to further my education so that I can hopefully in the future have a career that will support me for life. That…is directly related to my financial situation now, because I know that with my education now -- and my financial situation now -- I could not support myself for the rest of my life. Also, my choice to go to grad school is directly related to the job market, and wanting to increase my salary when I do get a job after college. - Gena Elliott, sophomore English major

Finances are always on my mind when I'm at school, and I have to schedule my classes early in the morning so I have enough time to work a full nine-hour day after school…Also, I am definitely thinking about riding out the recession in grad school, both for fear of the dismal job opportunities in Buffalo, and for the loan-payment deferral I would receive. That extra time would give me a little more breathing room until I got on my feet. - Lauren Carrow, sophomore communication and psychology major.

I am definitely considering grad school…not only because I am afraid to jump into the job market right away but [also] because there really isn't any good paying job in psychology that just requires a bachelor's. I am taking 13 credits this semester rather than 19 because …I have to balance two jobs and school in order to afford school, since financial aid still isn't enough to cover all of my expenses. - Jazmin Recarey, junior psychology major

[After graduation] I am hoping to get a decent paying job so I can start paying off bills from my undergrad and taking part time classes to work at my masters. I am worried that I might not find a decent job though. - Trevor Tomion, senior English major

My financial situation has probably the most impact on my academic decisions. I am considering graduate school because I'm looking to be more financially stable in the long run. I work a lot so that I can keep up with my bills, my expenses, and help my family when I can. College has been the scariest, most stressful time of my life. I find myself worrying about finances [first and] then about academics. – Amanda Fernandes, senior psychology major

I am an exchange student [at UB] so I don't have to pay tuition here, but when I was in Korea, I struggled to earn money so that I could live in Buffalo….So I took a semester off and worked at an academy, including [working a] part time job as a barista in a coffeeshop. – Kyounghae Jang, senior English literature major

My financial situation is what has brought me to UB as a junior. I began my undergraduate career at UNC-Wilmington, against my mother's financial advice. With tuition nearing $30,000 for an out of state undergrad it is hard not to consider financial responsibility, especially since I am…100 percent responsible for my education and expenses. After a year and a half there…I realized that in order to go to grad school, which is very important in the social work field, I would have to make a switch so I could afford it. - Carly Sunderlin, junior health and human services major

I'm an international student and this degree costs a lot more than any of the local degrees back in Singapore. If not for my mom, I [would] not be able to [attend] school at UB. - Chris Yim, senior communication major

I transferred from a small community college where I commuted from home. I became an RA this semester after living on campus for one year. One huge perk of being an RA is having your housing fee waved. Looking critically at my financial situation, I wouldn't have been able to finish this year, my senior year, without that opportunity. - Adam Fryer, senior psychology major