Relying on aid
Average cost of living at area universities:
Students should spend at their own discretion
If student loan money can only be spent on education costs, such as textbooks, housing and tuition, then the government would save hundreds of millions of dollars every year. This is not a good thing. Yes, it appears to be very good and could help lower the national deficit, but that would result in many people who could no longer afford to attend college.
Limiting the use of financial aid would eliminate the money students need for living costs, and students who are unable to find work during their college years would be the hardest hit.
The main reason loan money, grant money and scholarships should be used for noneducational costs is that there are several noneducational costs related to obtaining an education. Students require money for transportation to and from home occasionally throughout the semester. Even if students went home only at the end of semesters, they would still spend a couple hundred dollars on gas a year, minimum. For those without outside funding, this would become impossible if they had no job, and it is certain there will be thousands of students like that in the country.
I know, I have been there. I count on student loan money to hold me over until I start getting paychecks and if I didn’t have it I would not be able to attend PSU.
A second noneducational cost is food. There are some who would argue that the dining hall should be enough for any student, and to set aside money for it from financial aid would be unnecessary.
However, the dining hall closes at 6 p.m. on Saturdays and doesn’t reopen again until 11 a.m. on Sundays. This means students who could eat only at the dining hall have to wait 17 hours between meals. Without outside funding for food, students would invariably find times throughout the week when they are forced to go without eating, something that seems inhumane, to say the least.
There are additional living costs that would not be considered educational, such as doctors visits, prescriptions, clothing and emergencies. These could not be considered trivial, except maybe clothing, but even that can be a need when old shoes wear out. The most troubling cost would be doctors visits because residence halls help spread viruses quickly. If student financial aid could be used only on education, then students who experience an emergency, such as a broken leg or a car breakdown, would be out of luck and be forced to ask friends or relatives for money. If they can’t find a way to get the money, they may be forced to drop out of school. I can’t see a legitimate excuse to create a situation where that could happen.
While I believe students should be able to spend financial aid on noneducational expenses, I also believe that common sense should prevail. I don’t think it is appropriate to spend financial aid on a keg party since that is most certainly not a necessity. Yes, there should be some money left over for discretionary spending, but that doesn’t mean students should go out and splurge at the beginning of the semester because by the end of the year, they are going to need that money.
The money is there for a specific purpose
Your paycheck just arrived in the mail and you can’t wait to spend it on a new outfit, video game, and maybe put some away for the awesome spring break trip you’ve been planning. You’ve worked hard for that money. This is not the case when it comes to your financial aid refund. That’s why the same rules of spending your paycheck should not be applied to your government financial aid refund.
Financial aid is distributed by need and although the funds should be used to pay for tuition, housing, books, and other school expenses, refunds aren’t always spent on these items. Government refund money shouldn’t be spent on personal expenses when it was awarded for educational expenses.
Planning expenses can help you manage financial aid refund money. When you know your budget, you know expenses that will soon be coming up. If refund money is spent as soon as it is received, expenses that might come up later, like an unexpected book for class, rent, or a membership on a required online homework site might cause more stress than they should. Even if these expenses don’t pop up during the semester, refund money at the end of the semester can come in handy in multiple ways. The first is that you can begin paying off the loan. Although the loan may not be collecting interest, graduation will be here before you know it and a smaller loan amount will take off some of the pressure of paying your own bills, starting a job, and being out in the real world. Another use for saved refund money is to use it to pay tuition for the next semester. If your financial situation changes and you aren’t awarded enough loan money, then having leftover loan money from the previous semester can help cover expenses when you really need it. A more fun, educational option of spending your refund money is to go on a study-abroad trip. Being thrifty and saving refund money can pay off with the experience of a lifetime in another country.
Although saving refund money for educational expenses doesn’t allow for any fun purchases, a part-time job can help pay those extra expenses. Working just eight hours a week at minimum wage can provide almost $60 of spending money (minus taxes).
Regardless of good intentions, saving a financial aid refund check can be challenging. A separate bank account just for refunds can be used to resist the temptation for using it for non-school related purchases.
Receiving a financial aid refund check can be exciting and tempting, but by saving the money and planning out expenses, one check can pay off for a lot longer.