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Diploma Or Bust: Recession Tips from UTC’s Financial Wellness Center

By Mason Edwards, Staff Writer for the University Echo

Maren Haney studies for class in the UTC library. Monday, March 20, 2023. Seth Carpenter, Photo Editor

With years of studying at stake, can students afford a recession right now?

Economists seem split on the likelihood of an economic downturn, for headlines predict everything from a soft recovery to a delayed recession. As students register for new classes or prepare for graduation, the world has never seemed more unsteady, making it difficult to plan ahead.

In any economic climate, Financial Literacy Coordinator Sarah Edgar helps students from inside her office, which is decorated with relatable memes. As part of UTC’s Financial Wellness Center staff, she coaches students on overcoming debt, building credit and managing money. 

Edgar cautioned that, if a recession occurs, students and their guardians could see income loss and higher interest rates; however, there are numerous resources on campus that can help. According to her, now is a great time to review your finances.

“In advising students over the years, the best advice I can give a young professional about their finances is start working on your budget and truly track your spending,” Edgar wrote. “While it may not be hundreds of dollars at one time–small increments of savings can add up to those hundreds of dollars without causing additional financial stress.”

Instead of working part-time through the school year, some students like UTC sophomore Robert Downs bulk up their savings over the summer. His income from working as a movie extra and grocery store employee provides for his living costs, which he keeps under $200 a month.

“For example, groceries, I try to stick to like $60 a month, and then I usually try to do one thing, like splurge thing, per month,” Downs said. “Obviously [my family] didn’t expect the inflation stuff, but the way my overall cost works, I basically pay for half of [tuition].”

Still, the 60 plus hour work/study grind troubles many students as they pay for everything from housing to books. Even if one is lucky enough to have support from family, scholarships or grants, rising inflation still stifles spending power.

“I have a lot of support, but I know a lot of people don't,” Downs reflected. “They're just going to have to maybe go into more debt, maybe take more jobs. Probably if they take more jobs, they can't focus on school as much.”

The more one adds to their workload plate– school, work, internships, social life and volunteering–the less time they have to prepare meals at home. According to a report published by the Education Data Initiative, the average college student spends over $600 dollars per month on food, including meal plans. 

“When I am talking with students, I understand the convenience of grabbing food on campus; however, food is where most Americans overspend,” Edgar revealed. “I highly encourage students and young professionals to plan meals or have a plan in general for eating during the week.”

Her advice reflects the study habits of Grace Moon, a Southern Adventist University student visiting UTC’s campus. Thanks to scholarships, she doesn’t keep track of tuition costs, but she does keep an eye on her living costs. Moon likes to try out new food places when she’s stressed or bored.

“I personally go out and study, I cannot study on campus,” Moon commented. “I noticed that throughout the year, from like last fall semester, the majority of my spending was literally just going out every week to study.”

It is important for students to review their financial stability individually, as a variety of factors can affect one’s resilience to the changing economy. Still, if a student is concerned or wants to know if they should be concerned, Edgar listed several on-campus resources like the Financial Wellness Center, Student Outreach & Support, Financial Aid & Scholarships and Scrappy’s Cupboard. 

“Those who are afraid of the future- reach out to resources on campus or in the community,” Edgar said. “There is a vast network of people willing to help– you just have to ask.”

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