GW students have a certain reputation for excess, and in some cases, it may be well deserved. Many of us have heard of the student who spent thousands on clubs and drinks in his first few weeks of school. It’s true that even at a school as expensive as GW, students sometimes throw money down without much thought.
We know this is not the story of all, or really even most GW students. There are plenty of Colonials who spend their money in financially sound ways. But after the economic events of the past year, it is imperative that both students and the University work to ensure financial responsibility.
The temptation to spend can be overwhelming. Heading out for a night and enjoying a new city is an important part of the college experience, but spending more than $100 a night is not a requirement for fun in D.C.
More than just cutting back on excessive clubbing, financial responsibility means understanding how to manage expenses. College students are notorious targets for credit card companies and opaque student loans. Make sure you understand what terms your loans carry and how to budget your expenses. Doing so will help you focus on school and enjoy college without the somewhat avoidable monetary stress.
On the institutional level, it is important that GW give guidance to students interested in being financially sound.
Since the economic shake-up of the past year or so, the University has done an impressive job of adding funds to financial aid and being receptive to students who are enduring tough straits. The hot line established for concerned students was a quickly executed and effective tool.
In addition to extending financial aid, the University Counseling Center has helped students shoulder the burden of added financial concerns. Increased outreach and a special focus on the psychological challenges of a dour economy were part of the University’s multi-pronged approach to the recent turmoil.
On the other hand, it would be good to see more personal finance classes offered by the school. Graduates who are educated in financial responsibility are more likely to become very successful alumni. Offering more classes about how to manage a checkbook, bank accounts or loans is one of many ways GW could improve opportunities for financial education. Even if a for-credit class were not established, offering free seminars throughout the year to students would be a nice solution.
This represents a deeper attitude-shift that GW should undertake; one that puts the financial well-being of students on par with mental, social and academic concerns. Some groups advocate mandatory financial education, even pushing for consumer protection laws to achieve that goal. While forcing uninterested students to take compulsory classes might not be a solution, it is important to provide resources for those who wish to use them.
GW is an expensive school, D.C. can be an expensive city, and being a frugal college student can be difficult. It is important that the University and students both work toward learning good monetary practices. Students should get out and enjoy the city responsibly and GW should help them understand how to maintain that responsibility during and after college.
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