Financial literacy is about making good financial decisions to manage your personal finances – from budgeting to credit scores. Many people think of budgeting with dread – that it's restrictive and impossible unless you have an accounting degree or love math. It’s neither. It's a way to give you financial freedom so you can enjoy spending your money on the things that you want, without putting yourself into debt. For more information, see "Financial Literacy Guidance" (PDF) from Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education.
At St. Cloud State University, we have partnered with Great Lakes & Affiliates to provide students with GradReady, a financial literacy tool designed for college students to learn more about managing their tuition, budget, and bills.
A budget, or spending plan, is your first step in managing your money. Before you can create your budget and effectively direct your income, you need to know where your money is going.
While loans may be a part of financing your education, consider two things before you borrow:
Determine what you actually need to borrow before you sign for that loan.
When you borrow under the federal loan program, your loan is automatically assigned to a federal loan servicer. Work with the servicer to make payments on interest while you're in school (maybe even a little on the principal) to keep your debt load down.
If you've borrowed and are having trouble repaying the loan or feeling overwhelmed by the process, be sure to contact your federal loan servicer or the LSS Financial Counseling Center for free assistance. The LSS Financial Counseling Center has partnered with Minnesota State schools to help students with loan counseling. In-person appointments are available at many locations across the state, by phone, or via Skype. You'll work with a Financial Counselor with National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) who will pull your credit report, and review NSLDS with you to get a full picture of all your student loans and personal financial situation. Your loan servicer or the LSS Financial Counselor will walk through your repayment options, help you understand pros and cons of each option, and work with you to develop a plan that best meets your personal situation to help you avoid default or get back on track if you're already in default. Financial counselors will also work with you to develop a budget and spending plan for your financial success.
When financing your education abroad experience, preparation and planning are essential. We recommend that you begin planning your finances at least one year in advance of your trip. The Financial Aid Office is available to help you begin and navigate this process.
When you go abroad, you will have similar types of costs that you would during your time on campus (tuition, fees, housing, food/meals, health insurance, transportation). There are additional costs to consider such as the $75 application fee, airfare, passport/visa, immunizations and personal spending money. This Study Abroad Budget Worksheet may help you with your budgeting and planning efforts.
Once you have been accepted into your study abroad program, the Center for International (CIS) will submit an official budget to the Financial Aid Office prior to your term abroad. If you applied for financial aid, the program budget and cost sheet (PDF) supplied by CIS will be used to estimate your financial aid eligibility and award for the term(s) that you are studying abroad.
Many students will borrow additional loans to cover education abroad program costs. Try to keep your debt load down by budgeting closely, borrowing only what you need, and paying for as much as you can out of pocket with savings or earnings from work.