Financial Aid Literacy

BUDGETING

We know that maintaining your personal finances can be hard when you are a student.  Use the helpful tools on this page to develop lifelong money management skills that will assist you during your period of student and into the future.

If you need further assistance, the Office of Financial Aid at VIU is also available to counsel prospective and current students on the types of budgeting tools and the techniques that will work specifically for you. 

WHY IS BUDGETING IMPORTANT?

  • It helps organize and pay off expenses at a quicker rate.
  • You can develop and meet short-term and long-term financial goals.
  • Budgeting is proven to reduce student anxiety levels regarding financial and academic matters.
  • It can contribute and help build good credit for the future.
  • It improves understanding of Cost of Attendance (COA)
  • Budgeting identifies where funds should be going versus where they were actually spent.

HOW TO MANAGE A BUDGET

SET YOUR GOALS

The best way to start the budgeting process is establishing academic, financial, and personal goals.  Goals will provide a context that will allow you to better understand the benefits of saving and the long-term impacts of poor money management. 

  • Examples of Personal Goals:  
    • Establishing a career.
    • Choosing a place of residence.
  • Examples of Academic Goals: 
    • Obtaining a certificate or degree(s).
    • Graduation on time (the length of time spent in school has significant financial impacts).
    • Getting good grades in school that could lead to financial merit awards.
  • Examples of Financial Goals: 
    • Short-term savings (ex. placing a percentage of every paycheck in a savings account or accumulating minimal debt prior to graduation).
    • Long-term savings (ex. paying off a car within five years or saving for a down payment in the process of purchasing a home).
    • Building credit.

BUILD CREDIT

Building and maintaining credit is one of the most significant financial goals for university students.  On-time bill payments, as well as avoiding bounced checks and overdrafts, will assist in building a student’s credit.  A good credit history will open up financial options after you graduate.  For example, you will be able to obtain auto or home loans with favorable interest rates if you have good credit.  Student loan payments will impact your credit history if left unpaid, making it even important to budget your education.

If you are unsure of what your current credit looks like, credit reports and credit scores can help.  These tools have the capability to monitor your credit.  Free credit reports (but not scores) are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Wants vs. Needs

When starting to budget, it is important for students to create a wants versus needs checklist.  Needs are required for survival (ex. food, clothing, shelter, etc.) and wants are things that are not be as necessary (ex. buying a cup of coffee on a daily basis).  Your goals should be used as a basic framework for deciding which expenses are necessary and which are optional.

Complete our Budget Worksheet to find out where your money goes in the average month. You may be surprised to find areas where you could be saving!

Understanding Your Income

Students need to understand their income in order to create a functional budget.  Some aspects of income, like personal income, savings, and family contributions, are easy to grasp.  Other forms of income, like student loans or grants, require you to understand your responsibilities as an aid recipient or borrower.  
Virginia International University can assist students with information about scholarships, grants and work-study programs, student loans, and federal work-study programs.

BANKING

Many students don’t open their first bank account and being their credit history until after they begin school.  There are many banks and credit unions in the Fairfax Area that offer a range of financial services and low-cost features for beginners.  When selecting your bank, here are some points you may want to consider:

  • Does this bank offer free checking accounts?
  • Are there any incentives offered with opening a student checking account?
  • Does this bank have a variety of ATM locations?  Are there any extra fees associated with their ATM transactions?
  • How does this bank handle international transfers?

BORROWING & LOANS

U.S. students will often use federal or private loans to finance their education.  Taking out a loan is a decision that will affect you in the long-term.  It is critical to understand that your loan options and associated responsibilities in order to make good borrowing decisions.  Before taking out a loan, students should consider using all available grants and scholarships since these financial options do not need to be paid back.

Private loans should be used as a last-resort in financing your studies.  Private student loans are non-federal loans made by a lender, such as a bank, a credit union, or a state agency.  They do not typically offer the same benefits as a federal student loans.  Students are encouraged to seek financial counseling before taking out private loans to ensure they will not be affected for years to come. 

Whether using federal or private student loans, students should be aware of the details of the loan, as well as what their responsibilities are as a borrower.  Before taking out a loan, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it necessary to accept the full loan amount that is offered?
  • When does the repayment period begin?
  • How long is the repayment period?
  • Does interest accrue while I am still in school?  If so, at what rate?
  • When will a loan be considered delinquent (when is it considered overdue)?
  • If a loan becomes delinquent, when will it enter default (when does the overdue payment fail to meet its legal obligations)?
  • Can a defaulted loan be rehabilitated?
  • What are the repayment options and when is it necessary for me to select one (e.g. at the time of origination or upon graduation)?
  • What can be done to reduce debt burden? Can I pay interest or a small amount of loan principal while I am still in school?

Tracking Your Earnings and Spending

Tracking daily spending provides students with a true understanding of where their money is going, and if it is being used rationally.  To fully appreciate the impact of routine payments, students can calculate the total amounts of such purchases over the course of a year.  For example, a $2 coffee each morning would cost a student $730 annually.  The ability to visualize the long-term costs and implications of daily expenditure choices can provide a powerful motivation to curb discretionary spending.

Students can set themselves up for success by maintaining records of all their financial transactions.  Good record keeping can also assist in preventing financial discrepancies by providing a references for past interactions and agreements.  Ultimately, you are protected in the event of mistakes made by your financial institutions or loan servicers that could adversely affect you if you are aware of your past transactions.

Understanding Repayment

Students that are educated on their responsibilities and options as borrowers will help decrease default and delinquency rates.  Virginia International University’s Office of Financial Aid can help students by reviewing their repayment processes prior to originating the loan and revisiting the loan information before graduation.

Students are encouraged to explore all repayment plan options, including income-based repayment plans.  Even the most basic money management skills will aid in reducing your chances of making repayment mistakes that may adversely impact their overall credit scores.  In addition, students should always be mindful of keeping the university and loan servicer updated on any changes in their contact information (ex. mailing address, phone number, etc.) that could lead to missing important notices. 
Remember: Private loans have different repayment options and requirements than federal loans.  Borrowers of private loans are encouraged to contact their loan holders in the event of any changes or for relevant repayment information.

Borrowers experiencing difficult meeting their repayment obligations could have options.  This includes loan consolidation, changing repayment plans, deferment, or forbearance.  Educated borrowers are more likely to appropriately use these options to avoid delinquency or defaulted loans.  Virginia International University aims to educate students about these options and encourages students with complications to contact the Office of Financial Aid for counsel.

Additional Resources for Students

  • Federal Student Aid: www.StudentAid.gov – Comprehensive, detailed information on federal student aid from preparing financially for college through loan repayment.
  • Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC)—Resource for questions about federal student aid and completing the FAFSA: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Net Price Calculator at www.collegecost.ed.gov /netpricecenter.aspx 
  • FDIC Money Smart: www.fdic.gov/moneysmart – Comprehensive financial education curriculum designed to help low- and moderate-income individuals enhance their financial skills and create positive banking relationships.
  • MyMoney.gov – U.S. Treasury Department provides financial capability information for youth, lesson plans for teachers, and research reports about money, saving, and planning for the future.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): www.consumerfinance.gov/students – Provides help for making informed financial decisions about paying for college, such as how to compare financial aid offers, choosing a loan, managing money, and repaying debt.