Choosing to attend college is one of the biggest financial decisions one can make in their young adult life. Higher education is truly an investment and it is important to know how to manage your money properly during the next few years. Being a low-income college student adds pressure to the already existing challenges of attending university.
While financial aid can cover a significant amount of tuition fees for some, there are many aspects of college that are costly and can cause financial strain. College can already be a difficult time for reasons such as keeping your grades up, building healthy relationships and navigating a new environment, or simply just being away from home for long periods of time right out of quarantine. Having all those tribulations to face and wondering if you’ll even have enough for the following semester can be very discouraging.
Being a first-generation student in my first year of college has taught me a ton about how to spend my money responsibly but has also been extremely tough at the same time. No one should have to limit how many meals they can eat per day or how often they can do their laundry or stress over your FAFSA grants being cut just because your parents made slightly more that year.
I know the question of “why go to college if you just can’t afford it?” is probably what first comes to mind for many people and my answer is simple, if you work hard you should have the same access to education as anyone else. The summer before coming to campus introduced me to debts I have no idea I had to pay. Paying 500 dollars just to be placed in UMass’s class of 2025 came as a complete shock to me as well. Everyone is made aware of paying tuition, room, and board but other costs can be a complete surprise for those coming into college without a ton of financial knowledge like I was. As for the financial aid office, I remember calling them at least once a week for clarification on something in my aid package and don’t forget the constant reminders from the Department of Education that they will be expecting those loans repaid only months after finishing undergrad.
Overall, while I am thankful for the opportunity to begin the process of obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I believe financial struggles do add additional stress to my college life. I hope in the future there are many more opportunities for students coming from low-income households to enjoy their college years without financial burden.