Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009
K-STATE'S NEW POWERCAT FINANCIAL COUNSELING KEEPS STUDENTS SMART ABOUT DEBT IN TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES
MANHATTAN -- With the increasing cost of a college education, many students serious about pursuing a degree also must get serious about finances.
That's why Kansas State University has launched Powercat Financial Counseling, a resource for students who need advice about personal finance.
Jodi Kaus, director of Powercat Financial Counseling, said that the financial decisions students make today will lay the groundwork for their long-term financial health -- and that students are in need of financial advice now more than ever.
According to a recent report from The College Board, "Trends in Student Aid -- 2008," each year between 2000 and 2007, an estimated 60 percent of bachelor's degree recipients borrowed to fund their education. Also during that time, the average debt per borrower rose 18 percent, measured in 2007 dollars. That same report detailed that in 2007-2008 lenders provided about $17 billion in private loans, a 592 percent increase from a decade earlier.
Kaus said that a majority of the students she's seen since the center opened earlier this semester are worried about having to take on additional debt to go to school.
"Students are concerned about how much student loan debt they're incurring and whether it makes financial sense for their future," she said. "With the job market being tight, they need the cold, hard facts about their financial picture both now and in the future."
To prepare for that reality, Kaus first works with students to put down on paper how they spend their money each month.
"Going through this exercise puts in the forefront of their mind their financial behaviors and the need to change those behaviors depending on where they want to be financially," Kaus said.
She then helps students look at their future financial picture based on their major and career path.
"We estimate their net take-home pay after taxes, calculate their student loan repayment and take that out of their paycheck," Kaus said. "Often, there may be other debts, such as car loans or credit cards. Showing them what percentage this total debt service is of their take-home pay can be an eye-opener. Considering essential expenses like rent, food, transportation, clothing and medical care, there may not be much room for discretionary purchases like entertainment, travel and eating out."
Kaus tells student that if they don't have cash to pay for the latter, using credit for such purchases is not wise.
"Good debt is incurred on things that add value, such as education or appreciating real estate," she said. "Bad debt is taken out on things that are consumed and retain little value, like meals and entertainment."
With any form of debt, Kaus said an up-front, realistic assessment of how it will be paid back is vital -- particularly in the current job market and economic climate.
"The economy certainly has affected this analysis, because the one big assumption is that there will be a job offer that provides this assumed paycheck," Kaus said.
Powercat Financial Counseling is in the office of student activities and services on the ground floor of the K-State Student Union. More information about the service is available at http://www.k-state.edu/pfc