Kansas University students may find themselves getting some tough economic lessons.
Money and debt are serious business, and Diane Del Buono, director of KU's Office of Financial Aid, and Evy Gershon, assistant director, both say students have to be aware of the money end of education.
"I'm hearing stories of illusions burst," Gershon said in her Strong Hall office.
Likewise, Del Buono said she hears from students who are surprised at their loan-indebtedness.
Gershon said students need to understand that debts represent a serious commitment and it's important to keep them as low as possible "because it's harder to get jobs now."
Gershon, who counsels students about debt, doesn't always say what students want to hear. She advocates a thrifty college lifestyle, which some students may find reprehensible.
"Perhaps they don't need to keep the same lifestyle as their parents," Gershon said. "Maybe they should live in a residence hall, use a bus and not keep a car. Limit entertainment to inexpensive things available on campus."
When students get to college, Gershon said, they may not be able to "keep up with the Joneses."
For example, keeping up with fashion may be hard to do while living on a college budget, Gershon said. Unfortunately, some students end up going into credit card-debt to keep up appearances.
By the time students visit Gershon, they're usually "very desperate."
"And I don't have any magic wand," she quipped.
Students can do some things to save money, she said. A minor matter is staying away from vending machines. Gershon said she tells students to skip the vending machines and buy snacks at a grocery store.
"Vending machine food eats up money quite rapidly," she said.
Gershon also counsels students to think twice about bringing a car to campus. Gasoline, maintenance and insurance all add up quickly and can be a fiscal black hole for students.
When students come to Gershon, frightened about their looming debt, she sits down with them and makes them fill out a checklist of what they spend their money on.
Students who budget and watch their spending will come out ahead in the long run, Gershon said.