Improving Financial Savvy for College-Bound Students

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Nakia McKenzie had to transfer from St. Johns University because she couldn't afford the tuition. (Mallory Noe-Payne/WGBH)

It’s college admissions season and high school seniors are figuring out which schools they want to attend—and if they can afford to go to them. With skyrocketing costs, analysts say it's more important than ever that students fully understand the financial implications of their decisions. 

According to Rachel Fishman, a policy analyst with the New America Foundation, "There's differential pricing in higher education and students can be getting merit-based aid, grants, loans, and all of these factors have to be taken into account when making your college decision." However, she says, "Many students aren't able to do that right now, because it's a really complicated concept."

With the help of our partner WGBH’s Higher Education Desk, we found out what students can do to improve their financial literacy and limit their college debt.

The Takeaway talks with Mike Wasserman, the Massachusetts executive director of the non-profit Bottom Line, which helps disadvantaged and first generation students apply for and graduate from college. Jasmine Boyd-Perry, a junior at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, explains how the program has helped keep her on track.

Check out a video of Jasmine below.




Check out some photos of Jasmine and Mike.

Jasmine Boyd-Perry at the WGBH studios.

Mike Wasserman at WGBH.

Jasmine and Mike together.


Jasmine Boyd-Perry and Mike Wasserman

Produced by:

Elizabeth Ross


T.J. Raphael

Comments [7]

Jf from Reality

Why can't you call it what it is? Organized crime, gouging, and government loansharking. In skandanavia college is free and the government pays a stipend. Students graduate with no debt and a little savings. America is a Corporate dystopia.realize now!

Mar. 19 2014 03:20 PM
Larry Fisher from Hollywood, Cali.

Before deciding on a career path, I am suggesting to my 8 and 6 year old to look into online classes from Stanford, MIT and Columbia. They seem to be taking me seriously but with an eyebrow raised,"You have no college fund for us Dad, do you?"

Mar. 19 2014 02:52 PM
allen from Minnesota

Just listened in...Why are students taking on debt for non paying degrees? (Rhetorical) A psychology degree is fun to get but gets you nothing. I think these should be reviewed based on financial principles like ROI. We need more than social workers to turn this country around. The pay they get hardly services the debt they take on

Mar. 19 2014 02:32 PM
Marc Schuster from Philadelphia

Community college is the best deal going as far as higher education is concerned. Choosing this route for the first two years of college is like awarding yourself a $20,000 scholarship. As a community college professor who once taught at a large university, I can also attest to the fact that the courses they offer are identical and that most, if not all, community college credits transfer to four-year institutions. I wish more media outlets would mention this option when discussing student debt and the rising cost of higher education.

Mar. 19 2014 12:32 PM
Rick from Saint Louis

The college financial aid system punishes those families that have saved for years for their child’s education. I would have been better off (from my son’s perspective) had a bought that Porsche, spent time in the Caymen islands and been basically, financially selfish.

Mar. 19 2014 12:22 PM

@Mike from JC

Did you go to Rutgers? I did. I started in 1975 and finished in 1982. When I started tuition was $1,170 per year payable in quarterlies of $292.50 which was about 150 hours of minimum wage labor...Yes, you could actually work your way through being a full time college student on 600 hours (about 15 weeks) of minimum wage work.

Today, in-state tuition is $14,000. That's $500 below every penny you earn working full-time at a minimum wage job. Working your way through college full-time cannot be done. To close the gap, students take out loans. $40,000. $60,000. $80,000 in debt. And college play games with the tuition, offering partial 'scholarships' to students they would like to attract. You owe, you owe, so off to work you go. Working in social services or a non-profit will not cut it. Very often a teacher's starting salary isn't good enough either. So, it's IT or finance for most of them.

Over our lifetimes, college tuitions have kept pace with the growth in GDP but incomes have not. When our nation puzzles through whose pockets all of this GDP has been going to over the last 45 years, and fixes it so that middle income workers are earning in line with what they used to when we were undergrads, we will have a handle on the problem. If we don't, college will be only for the rich again. Try pulling the nation out of recession with a bunch of under-educated stiffs and see how that works out.

Mar. 19 2014 09:56 AM
Mike from Jersey City from New Jersey

In 1980, I graduated from college in 3 years with $23,000 in student debt (in 2014 dollars). My first job was for minimum wage, working in the social services. I then went into the non-profit field. I paid my student loans off on time and didn't think much of it.

What is the whining crap?

Mar. 19 2014 09:16 AM

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