Letter: Begin good money habits before it’s too late

ISU students, did you know that Iowa State ranks fourth among public universities in student debt loads, according to the Project on Student Debt?

Six years ago, I entered Iowa State as an out-of-state freshman. I vividly remember hearing my Destination Iowa State leader talk with a fellow leader about his recent purchase. This student had used the refunded tuition money to buy a motorcycle. Yup, that’s right, a motorcycle. I have also heard throughout my time here at Iowa State that students using their tuition/student loan refunds for funding their spring break trips to South Padre Island, paying off credit card debt accrued and down payments for cars.

So you’re probably reading this letter, be it online or in your hands, thinking this isn’t you and never will be. Is that the truth?

Maybe some of you are indeed fortunate enough not to have this issue, but we are all in this together Cyclones. The statistics about our university are out there and affect us as current students and alumni. Might I also mention that tuition is going to keep rising? It seems pretty inevitable at this point that more and more of the university’s funding is going to come directly from us, the students, and the tuition we pay.

The economic recession has had a huge impact on public universities and higher education funding. But, the recession has also had a huge impact on those, like myself, graduating.

Jobs are more and more competitive and harder to come by. The reality is that we are filling out countless online applications and maybe never hearing back from employers. We are a lost generation; lost in the fact that the majority of us didn’t learn financial life skills from anyone. So maybe you overspent on your credit card one month, and to financially recover you lived off of peanut butter and jelly and mac and cheese for a month. Those lessons, while hard to endure, are important to learn too, because hopefully you learned that to be fiscally prepared is better than being in the red.

I myself am implicated in this debt issue, as a current master’s student and someone who over six years of college has accumulated $52,000 in student loans. This is what I have been willing to pay for my education, but I fully realize this is what I owe six months after graduation. This is my hot button issue, ISU student debt. Perhaps this is atypical when compared to issues such as gay marriage, immigration, politician’s scandals, etc., but this is what gets me fired up.

If this letter helped shine a light on this issue and fire you up too, then talk to someone. It’s like having the sex talk with your parents; while uncomfortable, talk to them about how to budget money, how to spend wisely and moreover, save wisely. Talk to your roommate, a study buddy, a dating partner, your CA, your fraternity brothers/sorority sisters or go to the place we have on campus, the ISU Financial Counseling Clinic. The biggest impact you could have on your future, along with other ISU students, is to talk to your GSB senator. If you don’t believe that government works, try e-mailing or talking to your senator, you’d be surprised at the result you’ll get.