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Dollars and Bills: Understanding Financial Aid and Living on Budget

For many students, earning a college education can prove to be a smart investment for longterm success. However, for many students, access to financial assistance is critical. There are billions of dollars of financial aid available to those who need help paying for college and filing a federal financial aid application, known as the FAFSA, is the first step.

And while applying for and receiving aid is important, understanding how to borrow responsibly and within one’s means is imperative.

Responsible Borrowing

Never borrow more aid than you absolutely need. There are many things you cannot live without, for example: food, shelter, tuition and books. However, it is important to manage the expenses you can control and substitute for less expensive alternatives.

Remember every dollar not borrowed is another dollar that does not have to be repaid, with interest.

Getting Started

One of the first things you should do before attending Jacksonville University is to make a budget. Create a list all of your monthly expenses and compare your list to the funds you have available throughout the semester. If you have never made a budget, you should start by tracking all of your expenses for at least 3 months to get an idea of your average monthly expenses. Upon creation of your budget, if you have more expenses than funds, you need to find areas to cut back. Focus on the things you need, not the things you want.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the funds you’re borrowing for school are educational loans. These funds should be used for school and living expenses; not for luxuries you’ll be able to afford later on.

You should always be aware of the interest rates and terms for any loans, including credit cards. (Never sign up for a credit card just to get something free). While in school, credit cards should be used for emergencies ONLY and in no way, or by no means, to cover monthly expenses.

Repaying Your Loans

When you begin repayment, pick the repayment plan that is right for you. Upon leaving school, you will be required to complete the exit counseling; and the federal loan servicer will explain to you the different repayment options.

If for some reason you are having trouble making a payment, do not ignore the loan. You should contact your loan servicer immediately, so that they can assist you. It is important to keep your loans from becoming delinquent as there can be serious consequences affecting your ability to purchase a home, a car and accessing other credit.

Remember, the less you borrow, the less you have to repay. Be sure to stay on top of your loans by tracking them at the National Student Loan Data System website.

More Help

If you have any questions about your financial aid status, award package, or needs, contact the Office of Financial Aid for help.