Scholarships, financial aid provides options for students struggling with debt, recommends students deal with loans early

Financial standing is a consistent stressor for college students in today's world.

Central Michigan University counselor in residence Becky Wang said many of her interactions with students are a result of financial concerns.

Because money is a big aspect keeping students from being truly independent from their families back home, Wang said many students come to her stressed out about how they’ll be able to afford to continue attending CMU.

“(The resources CMU supplies) are really invaluable,” she said. “So, many people on this campus in various offices work really hard to help students stay here. Many of these offices know about opportunities available to students that others may not be aware of directly.”

The Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid is one resource available to students who need financial guidance or support. The office, located in Warriner Hall 202, has seven financial aid advisers accessible to students.

Associate Director of Client Services for the OSFA Julie Wilson said using the office is often an afterthought rather than a resource used while at CMU.

“I would say we see students a couple of times a semester, but we’ll see a minimal amount of students,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a top priority for active students. Often times, we’ll see them after they graduate when they need our assistance.”

One alum, who prefers to be left anonymous, said he is about $90,000 in debt a year-and-a-half out of school after spending six years at CMU.

“A lot of my loans were private loans, so interest starts collecting the second you take them out,” he said. “Right now, I am a bit trapped … my minimum payments are outrageous when put together, and I’m spending nearly $1,000 a month just for minimum payments.”

While a field change late in his college career forced him to stay an extra two years, he said his advice would be for students to be conscious of their debt.

“If you don’t have to take loans out, don’t,” he said. “Also, if you are able to make some payments while in school, do it. It’ll cut the interest down and make the payments easier on you.”

The OSFA recommends students set up appointments to meet with advisers to see how much a student has borrowed and provide options for more support, if needed, as well as repayment options.

“In addition, we always recommend students speak with their loan servicer, because the servicer can also get involved in the amount the student plans to earn and can recommend payment options that way,” Wilson said.

Kelsey McConnell said the office was helpful when she was setting up her financial aid this year.

“At first, hearing all the information about what you need to do to apply for financial aid is very overwhelming, and you don’t know where to start,” the Plainwell sophomore said. “They told me the overall process, giving me a better understanding, and continued to help me through step by step. They laid it out for me and made it make sense.”

McConnell said her next step is to look into scholarships she qualifies for as additional financial support.

“Right now is the time students should be looking for scholarships for the next academic year,” Wilson said. “We do offer some posted on our financial aid web page under (the tab) "scholarships." In addition, in the Student Service Court, there is a pretty large binder of local scholarships that students may be interested in applying for.”

Scholarships through CMU for the 2013-14 academic year will be available March 1 and vary in qualifications and amounts.

While there are scholarship options available in the OSFA, Wilson said she recommends current students to refer to their chosen department’s opportunities.

Wang said many students who visit her are unaware they can go to these offices and receive help with their specific financial situations, or are afraid to do so.

“When they learn of them, or learn that they can actually go there and someone will help them directly, they are relieved and most follow through with trying to get some assistance,” Wang said.


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