Managing a budget as a college student is one of the most difficult lessons to learn. Costs for textbooks and tuition are increasing each semester. We are taught throughout our lives that higher education is the key to success, but achieving that goal in these tough economic times is the challenge. As businesses have closed so have opportunities for employment. Thankfully, we have a proactive college and community environment that is dedicated to its students.
Many students aren't aware that they may qualify for financial aid. There are many student services and programs available at the college. Pell grants, BOG waivers, EOPS, SOAP, scholarships and work-study are just a few resources students can use to ensure their success at college. Student services are available inside the Lesher Building, and the staff is readily available to help students.
The college offers workshops throughout the semester as a part of the Student Success Program.
This past week, "Money Management" was the topic of a workshop presented by Jeff Williams from Educational Employees Credit Union. EECU's services to students include free checking accounts, car and computer loans and discounts, as well as 50 grants for $2,000 to help pay for student-related expenses.
The Los Banos campus will offer an academic workshop, "Budgeting 101 -- Living Within Your Means" on Sept. 12. All students are welcome to attend.
I have heard many students complain this semester about the cost of textbooks. The campus bookstore now offers a rental program.
During my experience at college, the only book I kept and referred to was an algebra book, so renting a book for $50 makes fiscal sense to me.
Required textbooks may also be available for use in the library.
Personally, I appreciate the professors who are well-versed in their subjects. Their knowledge and ability to present the material with in-depth lectures, a whiteboard and PowerPoint presentations require only a few pencils, a ream of binder paper, Scantrons and rapt attention.
The college has joined with journeyed.com, which offers significant savings for software. Students can buy Microsoft Office 2010 on the site for about $100.
The computer lab, tutorial center and the library have this software installed and available for students to use.
Tuition costs increased this semester and will most likely continue to rise. Twelve units per semester is considered full time. With careful scheduling and adding one or two more classes, students can graduate within three semesters. Self-discipline is more important now than it has ever been. The sacrifice of time and energy can provide the opportunity to transfer earlier than anticipated.
Students are hungry and the campus dining room has a variety of affordable food. The dining room offers a daily special, a complete meal including drink for $5.50. Discounts at 17 local restaurants can be redeemed with the purchase of a $10 ASMC sticker.
Transportation is always a significant cost, with gas prices rising, along with paying for maintenance, insurance and the required parking permit. Consider car pooling, riding the bus or a bike to stretch the monthly budget. Students can ride the bus all the way from Mariposa and the outlying areas of Merced County.
Starting a small business is another way students can make extra money. Can you install a hard drive? Can you perform minor car repairs? Do you have a pickup you could use to haul furniture? Do you enjoy walking dogs? Be an outstanding employee. Good work habits can lead to recommendations and contacts that you can use after you're out of school. By charging cheap rates and exceeding expectations, it's amazing how quickly word will spread. When you've built up a customer base, you can raise your rates.
Throughout our adult lives we will face challenges. Managing our finances during college is tough. Take advantage of the opportunities offered on campus. Those resources can help alleviate some of the stress we face every day.
Cynthia Blackmore is editor of Merced College's Blue Devil Report and a continuing transfer student at the college.