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The annual tuition deadline is a source of anxiety and stress for many college students twice a year.
Tuition and fees at public four-year universities increased by 13 percent between 2010 and 2015 (CollegeBoard.org). The expense of tuition is piled on top of books, housing, food, and other miscellaneous expenses.
If you’re worried about making financial ends meet, you’re not alone. A national study conducted in 2015 found that six out of 10 college students say they worry about having enough money to pay for school. Only 58 percent of students said they were prepared to manage their money (HigherOne.com). This anxiety often manifests itself in the form of economic stress.
What is economic stress?
Brown University defines economic stress as the “feeling of stress due to the current state of one’s personal finances and/or due to fear about the economy.”
Some symptoms of economic stress include trouble sleeping, digestive problems, weight gain or loss, inability to enjoy regular activities, and severe anxiety or panic attacks. This stress can manifest itself when combined with other stressors of college like exams or relationship troubles.
Academic performance can be impacted by economic stress as well. One third of college students in a 2012 survey reported that financial stress negatively impacted their academic performance or progress.
What causes it?
Any number of factors can lead to economic stress. Maybe you or a parent lost a job, or you feel like you don’t have as much money as your friends. This can be especially true on a college campus, where it’s easy to assume that all students’ families are wealthy.
The need to repay loans, the cost of education, borrowing money for college, the need to find a job after college, the academic challenge of course work – all these factors can add up quickly to cause economic stress.
So what can you do?
Budgeting your expenses is a sound first step toward getting a grasp on your financial situation. This will allow you to keep track of the money moving in and out of your pocket. If you’re unsatisfied with your spending habits, make small changes where you can.
You likely receive a combination of loans to help pay for your schooling. Navigating this can be a confusing and overwhelming experience. Luckily, the UW-Madison Office of Student Financial Aid has answers to all your questions and can guide you toward loan counseling services. In addition, the UW Credit Union can meet with you to go over your current situation and financial future.
Students may also wish to speak with someone from the Dean of Students Office. Staff are available to assist students with a variety of issues, including academic distress due to personal issues, community support, family emergency, resource referrals and problem solving.
If a sudden, unexpected circumstance causes financial hardship, the Dean of Students Office offers short-term crisis loans.
Many students find that employment during college is a good way to alleviate some of the financial burden of paying for school. Visit the UW-Madison Student Job Center to get started.
Talk with your family to determine if they understand or share your concerns. Finally, University Health Services offers a wide range of counseling and consultation services that can help you talk through any anxieties surrounding your financial situation.
Written by Ben Vincent, UHS Web and Publications Editor