SAN ANTONIO — On Feb. 19 the Student Success Department brought in Senior Research Analyst Kasey Klepfer of Trellis Survey Corporation to host a financial wellness informational session for Our Lady of the Lake University students and faculty regarding student finances. In the session Klepfer went over various topics like emergency funds, paying for school expenses, students living situations and paying their tuition. Trellis compared OLLU’s results from the survey with other similar economically under-resourced colleges and universities.
The survey asked students if they worry about paying for school, emergency funds, supporting others and paying current monthly payments. Shockingly OLLU numbers were higher than the other four year private universities surveyed. The survey showed that 77 percent of OLLU undergraduate students are worried about being able to pay for school. Trellis also asked students if they had an emergency fund of $500 and 75 percent said they would not have access to that kind of money in case of an emergency like unexpected car issues. Many undergraduate students worry about paying monthly bills with 39 percent running out of money five or more times. A student who wished to remain anonymous said, “I did not realize so many other students struggle the way I do.” Throughout the survey, the students that were most affected by financial hardships are first-generation students.
While financial aid takes into consideration students having to support their family, children, spouses and other family members, the extra money doesn’t always offset the income lost from not being able to work. The survey showed, 43 percent of OLLU undergraduate students under 25 years old said it is important that they help their family. “Which is interesting because at some other institutions you would see the older students of the undergraduate body were supporting children and families at a greater rate,” Klepfer said. However, students that were typically supporting a family had a plan on how to pay for school. OLLU graduate students’ numbers were slightly lower than those pursuing an undergraduate degree with 70 percent worrying about having money to pay for school, 53 percent would not have access to a $500 emergency fund, 54 percent support at least one child, 34 percent support a spouse and 21 percent support parents.
Not only is paying for college a difficult task for many OLLU students, but basic needs are also a concern for them. According to the survey, about 66 percent of students have low food security and 34 percent have very low food security. In other words, students at OLLU are missing meals because they cannot afford to eat! On top of that 39 percent have unsecured housing arrangements, a total of 14 percent of undergraduate students and 18 percent of graduate students are homeless or couch surfing. Those that are couch surfing could be one argument away from being homeless. “Basic needs security is a problem for Americans,” Klepfer said. Americans all over the country are dealing with basic needs security while the cost of living increases, however wages are not keeping up with the increase.
How are students paying for school? Well, many students underestimate their school debt while overestimating how much they will make after college. Besides grants, scholarships and student loans; the survey said 59 percent use employment, 68 percent use support from family, 53 percent use personal savings and 28 percent use credit cards. However, using credit cards puts the students in what is called a “debt cycle.” The majority of the students using credit cards pay their bill on time however, not in full which creates that debt cycle. Most students, 56 percent of them, said they have more school debt than they had expected at this point while one-third of students are not at all confident that they will be able to pay back their student debt. While 28 percent use credit cards for tuition, 34 percent of students are using credit cards for school-related purpose which is common and risky.
Emergency aid programs have proven to be valuable as long as the student can have access to the services within one to two days. Klepfer stated that many universities have included financial counseling, set-up food pantries, offered temporary housing resources, made crisis support teams available, worked with vendors to bring down cafeteria prices, added resources to Professors’ syllabi and offer food vouchers for students in need.
If you are a student in need of financial counseling or in need of an emergency grant please visit the Student Success Department for additional support and more information.