The financial arrangements necessary to fund higher education are complex.
I sat down with Jacquelyn Painter, Everence Federal Credit Union Branch Manager for Harrisonburg, to discuss finances, debt, and planning for the future.
Nofziger: What misconceptions do you find students have about finance?
Painter: The greatest misconception is that they think that a lot of it [debt] will be forgiven, or they don’t understand how the principle of interest works. A lot of them are very uneducated in the fact that once the deferment process ends, where their payments are null and void for those amounts of time they’re in school, that they’ll have to start making full-time repayments regardless of if they have a job or if they can afford the coverage for those payments. A lot of it is “Mom and Dad have always taken care of my education,and now it’s my loans.”A lot of people don’t have credit; that credit is a big concern and a misconception too. So it is just the whole education process.
Nofziger: What general steps should students take as they consider their financial future?
Painter: For their financial future, I would say figure out what you want to do. If you are not really sure, I would suggest starting with general studies, because you don’t want to go in and rack up a lot of additional debt. A general studies would get you at least two years of time before you can really figure out what you want to do.
Explore the career, figuring out how much student debt it will take versus the minimum salary is for the starting position for that. Kind of compute your figure a little bit, and be more prepared for it. A lot of students just think of that educational piece, [like] what my classes are going to cost. Do an all- inclusive list of your bills for the year: what your rent’s going to be ,what your books cost, what your school supplies are going to cost, and if you are having a part-time or campus job. If you need automobile services or gas, compute those in.
Nofziger: What preparation for the future should students engage in now?
Painter: Research the job market; I can’t stress that enough. Just know what is going on. Prepare for a back- up plan if you know that [for example] the nursing field is very tight to get in around this area: research and figure out what else you can do. Maybe there is a position where you can start small and move your way up. That is better than no income or being a cashier someplace for the mean time. Re- search the market, research the general demographics of the area.
Nofziger: Where would you suggest students look to research the market?
Painter: The census puts out some good information. Harrisonburg puts out a business report quarterly. Every quarter you can read up on those things. Also ask around; the hospital knows how many positions they have available and what their greatest need is, going back to that nursing field. So if you are trying to look to get your foot in the door, do a lot of networking. There are a lot of business events that take place here in Harrisonburg.
Nofziger: What other advice would you have for students?
Painter: For students in the job market, I would really stress the fact of interning somewhere into that given field, instead of investing time in a job that is just a part-time job to kind of get you by for services. If you are looking to go for the field, start with some sort of experiment to get your foot in the door, and then you can just kind of move on or move up. There is a lot of potential there.