Crunching numbers

Shawntaye Hopkins

Jennifer Knotts never knows “what kind of case will come in next” at the Commonwealth Health Corporation of Bowling Green.

But the Auburn freshman said she’s sure the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. overnight shift is worth the six credit hours the medical center will reimburse her for working.

Few families can afford to carry the entire financial load of college themselves, which leaves Western students such as Knotts searching for ways to help pay tuition or save a little cash for spending money.

According to the U.S. Department of Education Web site, of the 16.5 million undergraduate students enrolled in college during 1999-2000, 55 percent received some type of financial aid.

Knotts, who works registering patients at the medical center, also uses loan money to pay for school before the reimbursement and the additional nine hours she is taking this semester.

She said the job gets stressful at times, however she plans to continue the job in order to pay for all four years of school.

“Any job gets stressful, but I plan to stay on (at the center) until I finish college,” Knotts said. “If you really want to do this you’ll find a way.”

For some students the entire burden doesn’t fall on their shoulders.

Brenda Hurt , mother of Hazard sophomore Ashley Hurt, believes both students and parents have responsibilities.

“I believe it is (the student’s) responsibility to help with (personal) expenses and the parent’s responsibility to pay for school,” Hurt said.

There are also plenty of exciting work-study jobs on campus which can help students pay for school.

Jerrod Nelms , a sophomore from South Fulton, Tenn., works as a Resident Assistant at Pearce-Ford Tower. Some of his responsibilities include working at the front desk, being on-call for students, acting as a disciplinary and helping during mail shift.

Nelms enjoys working as an R.A.

“Living off campus is too expensive and I didn’t want to have to work 40 hours a week,” he said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, approximately two-thirds of financial aid comes from federal programs administered by the national Student Financial assistance office. Grants are the most preferable type of federal assistance since they don’t need to be repaid.

Loans are the most common type of financial assistance. Students can apply for loans that are need based or non-need based.

Nelms receives a combination of grants, scholarships and loans. Although he rarely worries about paying for school, he has a few concerns for the future.

“It’s just how much I’m going to have to pay back when I get out of school,” Nelms said.

It is common for many students to make mistakes when dealing with financial aid for the first few semesters.

Marion freshman Beckie Campbell said she would definitely change some of the ways she went about getting financial aid for her first semester.

“I’d look harder and use more resources to find money,” Campbell said.

Students such as Leitchfield junior Jamie Decker make sure to fill out their Free Application for Student Financial Aid, or FAFSA, every year.

The most common mistake students make when dealing with financial aid is waiting too late to file, said Marilyn Clark, director of student financial assistance.

Students should apply for financial aid prior to July of the year the student is going to apply in the fall, Clark said.

The best time to begin the process is between January and July. Applying for assistance early leaves time to correct any errors, Clark added.

Some students obtain credit cards to help pay for school. But credit card debt is a negative experience that has had an influence on several students. Some students such as Owensboro sophomore Michelle Underhill simply try to stay away from credit cards and therefore away from debt.

“I know many people who get themselves into trouble when they spend a lot, and when it comes time to pay they’re too poor,” Underhill said.

According to familyeducation.com, a Web site that gives parents advice and information on child development, one or two widely accepted credit cards are plenty for college students. Parents must be sure their students understand that a credit card should not be used for items they can not afford.

The Web site named several factors to take into consideration when applying for a credit card: low or no annual fee, a grace period before financial charges are incurred and benefits like extended warranties or purchases.

Underhill warns anyone who decides to get credit cards. They can be more trouble than they’re worth.

“Don’t spend a lot at one time,” she said.

BEGITAL Herald reporter Shawntaye Hopkins can be reached at [email protected] ENDITAL