Money top concern for college students

Question: What’s the biggest concern in the minds of college students? A: Exams? B: Grades? C: Parking? The answer is D, none of the above.

“College students report that money is their top concern, according to the 2013 College Student Pulse survey results,” said Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

That same poll, released in August by Citigroup and “Seventeen” magazine, found that “more than 60 percent of college students say that college is more expensive than they anticipated.”

Connerly, who has a college student of her own, has three key money-management steps for college students:

• Estimate Expenses. “Take the guesswork out of money management,” she said. “Write down all of your expenses and estimate the amount of money you will need for each. Remember to include periodic expenses like textbooks, car insurance and spring break travel. Estimating expenses is an easy way to gain peace of mind about your budget.”

• Set Limits. “Discretionary spending can get out of hand if you don’t have limits,” Connerly said. “Decide on specific dollar amounts to spend on food, entertainment or trips to your favorite coffee shop. Set limits to take control of your finances.”

• Minimize Debt. Most students — 84 percent — have at least one credit card and some, 73 percent, have student loan debt, according to the survey. “A high credit card balance can make it more difficult to pay regular bills such as rent and utilities,” she said. “ Don’t use credit cards or student loans to finance a lifestyle.” Connerly’s advice is to borrow as little as possible to meet basic needs. “If you use a credit card, keep balances low and pay off debt as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s easy to swipe a card to pay for pizza or a new shirt but monthly credit card payments can make it more difficult to pay regular living expenses.”

For more information about managing finances visit or contact a county extension agent.