As semester ends, financial worries stack up

By Gus Bode

Between long hours of work and studying, Darcie Cohee sits down for a hurried meal at Trueblood Hall. Although she’s putting in as much time at work as she can, she said she often feels uneasy about finances.

Cohee, a senior from Danville studying information systems technology, said the spring semester will add anxiety because it means she is closer to graduation, which comes with a new set of worries.

“I’m trying to think about moving and taking care of all that financial stuff, and managing classes,” she said. “It’s going to be stressful.”


With the new semester swiftly approaching, students must readjust to balance the different aspects of their lives.

Derrick L. Williams, coordinator of Student Health Services, said these changes can overwhelm students, and money problems are often at the forefronts of their minds.

“There are a lot of students that are suffering silently, that don’t sleep at night, that aren’t feeling good, and they don’t feel they can tell anyone,” Williams said. “When you talk about students’ stress, financial worries are always at the top. All of that can impede their academic journeys here.”

Jennifer Armstrong, a senior from Mascoutah studying microbiology, is in her sixth year of college after switching majors four years ago. She said she worries about employment post-graduation because her loans will be difficult to pay off.

“I have six months after I graduate to pay them off, but like everyone, I’m kind of worried about if I get a job,” she said.

Armstrong said paying bills and rent is the most stressful part about school. And because she hadn’t dealt with financial responsibility before college,  she said she didn’t feel as prepared as she should have been.

“They don’t actually prepare you when you graduate high school for what you have to actually do in order to get your money, or how to properly apply for scholarships or loans,” she said. “They don’t really teach you that. They kind of just throw you into the world like, ‘Go deal with the banks and their whole bureaucracy system.’”


John Patterson, an undecided sophomore from Urbana, said living independently presents new financial problems.

“When you’re living on your own, you have to make a lot of sacrifices,” he said. “You have to get food and you have to pay bills. You have to take care of these responsibilities first.”

Some students said they feel guilty about asking their parents for financial assistance.

“I usually avoid asking my parents because I feel bad,” Cohee said. “My parents always say that they’ll lend me money if I need some, but I try not to ask.”

Armstrong expressed similar feelings about asking her parents for financial help because of hard economic times.

“My brother’s in graduate school and they have their own bills, so I don’t really want to ask my parents for money,” she said.

She said she looks to her mom for support when she feels overwhelmed, though.

“It’s better to get it out with her because she won’t judge me, instead of having a meltdown with someone at the bank,” she said.

Since most students are away from home, the Wellness Center can help overwhelmed students by assessing the source of the anxiety and listening to their problems.

“Some of them are seeing their parents struggle in this economy,” Williams said. “What’s important is to try to listen to them, hear their stories, support them, as well as try to provide them with some sound wisdom to help them move through this process.”

Williams said students tell him they often feel pressured to spend money when they are out with friends.

“Group gatherings bonding over consumerism can end up leading to debt, which can be problematic and stressful,” he said.

According to a recent report from the Project on Student Debt at the Institute for College Access and Success, two-thirds of graduates in 2010 had an average of $25,250 in student loan debt, and student loan debt was greater than credit card debt for the first time nationally.

Credit cards are another major contributor to students’ economic worries, said Williams. He said the use of credit cards is prevalent among students, but not everyone knows how to use them responsibly.

“A lot of credit card companies don’t care that you’re in school or that you’re on your last semester. They’re going to harass you, and they use a lot of abusive tactics,” he said.

Cohee said even with a job, she has to save as much money as she can.

“I’m pretty careful about over-spending and only buying what I need,” she said. “I have to spend all my money on bills; I don’t get to go shopping for clothes or anything like that.”

Although money problems may be exhausting, Williams said there are resources available for students such as books, podcasts and websites, which provide counseling and tips for students. He said he often suggests stressed students pay attention to the advice of celebrity financial advisers such as Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey.

Some students use online financial calculators to track their incomes and expenses. Armstrong said she worried more about money before she began using websites to track spending.

“For the most part, it makes budgeting a lot easier,” she said.