The roughly $23,472 cost of attending UCSB this year won’t pay for itself. The state governor won’t be rolling back the $6,141 price of tuition, and the $869 tag on campus-based fees won’t shrink to a more palatable number. Books average $1,505 a year. And what about rent and food? Telephone bills? There’s always something to budget for.
Going to a UC guarantees cheaper student fees than private universities, but the average student will still graduate $14,000 in debt. While 60 percent of students receive some form of financial aid, they and many others who don’t qualify for need-based aid must straddle loans, work one or two jobs and schedule a full 16-unit load just to get through in four – or five – years.
By planning ahead, however, you can be an exception to the rule, meaning less debt, more time to focus on school and, well, just having the fun college is supposed to be made of.
Take fourth-year rhetoric major David Landes. He received no financial aid, no scholarships and no financial contributions from his family. And yet, as of this past spring, Landes has college paid for.
“I still don’t quite believe it,” Landes said of realizing that he had the funds to pay for senior year. “All my survival methods were so habitual that not only was it hard to stop, but the thought of going back to my old lifestyle is unappealing.”
While he had always prepared for the possibility, Landes said he knew he would be paying for college entirely by himself about six months before beginning life at UCSB. Because he did not qualify for financial aid, he looked to into scholarships.
“I found [scholarships] few and far between, and found myself putting in so much time looking for scholarships that it wasn’t very economical,” he said.
Landes had three jobs in high school, but only worked full-time during the summer. As he does now, he said he worked about 17 hours a week during the school year in order to focus on his studies. Much of his current academic work revolves around his self-created major, which was approved his sophomore year.
“I didn’t want to work so much as to detract from my educational experience,” he said. “More important than making the money for college is knowing why you’re there.”
Besides maintaining a steady work schedule, which includes his drum and guitar tutoring service as well as odd jobs, Landes simplified his living conditions. After working as an on-campus resident assistant for a year, he moved into one of the “most financially savvy” apartments in Isla Vista, and scheduled a creative – yet surprisingly healthy – diet.
He spent a total of $78.43 on food last Fall Quarter, which included large containers of rice, pretzels, noodles, applesauce and oats. But by continually volunteering at events, taking leftovers and through various other strategies, Landes spent “zero dollars” on food last Winter and Spring quarter Quarters.
“Arguably I ate healthier my junior year than any other year of my life,” he said. “I couldn’t afford junk food – I couldn’t afford excess. It was a cognizant effort to meet adequate nutrition. … Fulfilling my nutritional needs was never on my mind when everything came easy.”
No two students have the same needs or wants, Landes said, and therefore no one should feel pressured to use his same tactics.
“It might not be the best idea to pay for college in the first go-around,” he said. “Go to community college – that could be the best plan for you depending on what your goals are. … Most of the best answers are probably already within you. You know what you want better than anyone else and it’s entirely within your reach to figure it all out.”
Regardless, Landes suggested a few tactics all students could employ in financing their education. For one, keep track of spending and income – knowing where money goes can be a great tool in cutting frivolous costs, and in finding cheaper alternatives. Whether it be with cell phone providers or apartment rents, comparisons always help.
Second, and most important to Landes, “constantly overlapping interests” like a paid position with a hobby often leads to other jobs or even a career. By making connections in the office, during his free time or even while practicing with one of several bands, Landes said he has built up clientele and future jobs. He has even found some connections to publish a book about his experiences.
“Whether at lecture, while partying, or at a gig, I’m also on the lookout for connections, job and even food-finding opportunities.” he said. “And if you’re in the habit, you can constantly pursue a bunch of things at the same time. I’m making conscious efforts all the time.”
Aside from the advice of experienced peers, the best advice on paying for college comes from the UCSB Financial Aid Office, as well as its website.
On the Financial Aid Office website, located at www.finaid.ucsb.edu, students can access a quarter-by-quarter checklist, tips for new students looking for financial aid, information on new grant and loan programs and get started with the relatively new Gaucho Direct Deposit.
“It’s the fastest and most efficient and safest way to get [refund] money to a student,” said Steven Kriz, BARC Systems & Operations director. “The old paper check process is ripe with problems. There’s mail problems, people move [frequently], checks get lost or stolen.”
About 60 percent of financial aid students receive their refund checks via direct deposit, a number Kriz would like to see increased over the next few months.
In addition to receiving refunds online, new and continuing students must now access their BARC accounts via the Internet. The August Gaucho E-Bill has been sent in tandem with a paper statement, but future billing statements will only be sent to a student’s U-Mail account.
Kriz said students will find the new system much easier and more efficient, plus it saves the university money and paper. About 6,200 pounds of paper per year will be saved, Kriz said.
By using the resources available, students can make it through college financially secure, healthy and happy, Landes said.
“Even while switching majors, working a job, being overworked, feeling moments of hopelessness, even meaninglessness, it can be easy not to get burnt out when you have the attitude that everything you’re doing – so long as you’re doing it with all your ability – has its own inherent rewards, even if you can’t see those rewards at the time,” Landes said.