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  • Grace Sigler

Impacts of financial stress on college students

The financial aid office at Palm Beach Atlantic University. (Photo courtesy: Grace Sigler)

Many college students struggle to pay for school while balancing their expenses. Most rely on some form of financial aid to successfully attend and pursue college. Even with financial aid, students still face significant stress when figuring out how to pay for school, housing, food, bills and other personal necessities.

Inflation has only increased these financial pressures. While the high price of living conflicts with the cost of college education, students can not be expected to succeed academically if they are not fully prepared to pay for college. Erin Schaffer, director of the financial aid office at Palm Beach Atlantic University, understands the financial concerns of students all too well.

“When a student is not as prepared, the finances will always, because finances are so rudimentary in their ability to stay in classes and on campus, cause an extreme amount of stress or lack of focus in their education,” Schaffer said.

Financial stress is a leading cause of academic failure. If a student cannot confidently afford an education, they may lack the confidence to excel in or complete their degree.

“PBA has provided a lot of good financial aid and I work in federal work-study, however, I’ve had to consider shortening my degree plan in the past due to financial reasons. The spring semester is always harder to pay for because I work over the summer to pay off the fall semester,” one PBA student said.

Students across the country are dealing with financial stress. Many are having to make difficult decisions around the ability to stay in school, which may include whether or not they can stay in school. Several college students are not prepared to pay for college by the time they graduate high school.

“We have a lot of students and parents that don’t know that they’ve taken out loans, they don’t how to find their lender, they don’t know how to get in contact with their lender, so that’s a huge obstacle,” Schaffer said.

Many students feel overwhelmed due to a lack of financial literacy.

“Some students are also afraid or embarrassed to come to the financial aid office to ask for help or advice when it comes to figuring out how to pay for college or managing their finances regarding their education,” Schaffer said.

According to a PBA student, since there are many fine details included in understanding educational finances, it is hard to comprehend them all at once.

Luckily, there are financial aid experts whose job is to help better prepare college students and their guardians to pay for college. Many of them work on college campuses to help assist students with their questions. Offering education to help students better understand financial literacy is a top priority amongst many colleges and institutions.

“We are working on offering better educational tools for understanding financial literacy. That’s something I hope to see accomplished in my time here as the director,” Schaffer said.

Financial aid can easily become confusing, especially for recent high school graduates. However, there are many professionals and resources that can help students refine their financial aid plans. College financials are unique to each and every student and it is the office’s job to help each individual determine the best plan of action.

“Financial aid is so particular to each student,” Schaffer said.

Dealing with financial pressure can be highly distracting, isolating and confusing for a student to try to handle on their own. Fortunately, college students are not alone in this struggle and have many resources to help them. Some of these resources include: reaching out to a financial counselor, creating an account on, contacting their major’s department about individual scholarship opportunities, applying for outside scholarships, and filling out the FAFSA application every year.

By Grace Sigler

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