They’re known as coddled, confident, and attention-craving. They’re known for their free-spending habits and lack of savings. They’re generation Y—teenagers and young adults in their twenties—in college and getting ready to enter the working world.
Tabitha Nordlof is a Gen Y’er who has made budgeting a priority. The Aurora University senior has some student loans and even some credit cards, but concentrates on making sure she keeps them at a manageable level.
“I try as hard as I can to keep (credit card balances) down,” said Nordlof. “Because I know after I graduate, what if I can’t find a job and aren’t able to pay (them) back? ”
Toney Howell is another Aurora University senior, and he’s in the minority. The Hyde Park native has landed a full-time job in his chosen field with Nike, and has almost no debt to speak of. However, many of his friends can’t say they’re in the same boat.
“A lot of my friends have a lot of credit card debt already,” said Howell. “They want to buy shoes and books and things like that they have don’t necessarily have the money for at the time. And when it comes the first of the month or whenever, they get that bill in the mail and they don’t have the money to pay for it.”
That’s the point where Howell steps in to help. He says he’s had to loan some money to needy friends at different points of college. He says he just sees it as something he should do to help.
A recent study says college students average more than $4,000 in debt, which is up 44% from 2004. That has many more college students getting on campus and heading straight to one spot—the financial aid office.
Heather McKane is the dean of student financial services at AU. She says her office has seen a 40% increase in applications over the past two years, with many first-time walk-ins “inquiring about loans just to help with their monthly budgeting and planning.” She says the one thing students do lose track of is how much they’re in the hole.
“At this time of year it’s interesting because at the end of four years, or maybe four and a half or five years, they’ve kind of lost track of how much they’ve borrowed,” said McKane. “And when they go through what’s called an exit interview process, they are a little surprised at what they’ve borrowed.”
That’s why seniors like Tabitha Nordloff and Toney Howell have made keeping their debt in control priority number one, which they admit wasn’t always the easiest thing to do.
“I guess I’m just glad that I haven’t gone overboard with my debt,” said Nordlof. “I know some college students have…we just get into this lifestyle where it’s sort of like kick back and relax in college, and (we) just want to buy things, but I’m just lucky that I haven’t done that.”
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