UW Credit Union talks loan debt

Morgan Van Lanen, Editor-in-Chief

Seventy-one percent of students who graduate from a four-year University have loan debt according to the Institute for College Access and Success’ study in 2012. At public colleges, the average loan debt is $25,550, according to the same study.

Although the UW Credit Union can’t make those loans go away for students, it can offer information and help for students who feel like they are drowning in their debt.

On Monday, April 23, the Credit Union, in partnership with the UWO Student Health Center, will be giving a presentation called “Smart Strategies to Pay for School” in Sage Hall 1214 at 6 p.m.

According to Joe Dahms, the UWO branch manager of the UW Credit Union branch and the speaker at Monday’s presentation, the session will be about tips and awareness on several topics that fit into smart strategies to pay for school.

“We are going to talk about financial aid, different resources out there,” Dahms said. “Obviously the Financial Aid Office is a great resource. We will talk about what students can do with that. We are going to talk about identity theft and some of the recent financial crimes that are happening. We are also going to talk about how students can be proactive and start saving now to set some good behaviors up so they can pay some out of pocket or set them up for financial success when they’re out of school.”

Juliana Kahrs, the health promotion coordinator at the Student Health Center, said she hopes to see students attend the session because financial wellness can be a huge strain on the mental health of young adults.

Kahrs said work is one of the top five reasons why students perform badly in school.

“I have known students who work two or three part-time jobs while also trying to balance a full-time class load,” Kahrs said. “Ironically, the activity that is allowing them to continue paying for school and living expenses is also one that can have a negative impact on their studies.”

Kahrs went on to give examples of how finances can mentally and physically affect students.

“A student might experience chronic, overwhelming stress from money issues and lack of time to complete coursework, which can lead to sleep difficulties that can trigger anxiety and/or depression,” Kahrs said. “As a result, their immune system is suppressed from lack of sleep and chronic stress, and they are more likely to get sick. There is a cyclical impact of all these factors, and for some students, finances can be a contributing factor, or it could even be the root cause.”

Freshmen to seniors and everyone in between are encouraged to attend the seminar because the information that will be provided can also be applied to finances after college as well, Dahms said. Furthermore, even students who are currently financially stable or will not have college debt should consider coming.

“We say congrats, that’s awesome, because you aren’t going to leave school with any debt,” Dahms said. “But smart strategies to pay for school can also apply to your other funds, your budget, your spending plan. You aren’t going to have debt when you leave school, but what are you doing to plan while you’re in school to set your set yourself up for the future?”

Kahrs said she hopes students who attend the presentation will feel better about their current financial state and be more comfortable about their financial future.

“First, I hope they know they’re not alone,” Kahrs said. “Many people are struggling with similar financial issues. Second, I want them to learn how to be financially savvy. Not all debt is bad debt, and there are effective and reasonable ways to pay off your debt. We’re not saying it’s easy, but there are ways to manage your money now so that you don’t get into trouble in the future. I hope they take away a sense of urgency to make their financial wellness a priority. It’s important to set yourself up now for success in the future.”