Affording College

Some tips for dealing with and getting money at the university

Photo By David Robert

The picture is familiar: Top Ramen leftovers, a milk-crate desk and a college student stretched out on a hand-me-down couch.

Yet times have changed, and living the life of a pauper in college is not so much a requirement as it is an option.

Knowing the ins and outs of financial aid, scholarships, employment and student housing will make going to the University of Nevada, Reno easier and your life less stressful. Living on your own isn’t as hard as it sounds if you have a plan for your finances.

Renee McCloud, senior advisor and coordinator for the Stafford Loan program, says to avoid impulse shopping and simply try to cut back.

McCloud advises parents and students to do a budgeting session together to figure out where to save.

“When you add how much it’s going to be to get your hair done for a year, and you no longer have your parents paying for it, it’s like, “Wow, that’s a lot of money,’” McCloud says.

It’s important to stay within your budget. If you have willing parents, see if they’ll help you pay some bills.

When Aug. 28 rolls around, Jemma Schulte, 18, will be ready.

Take a tip from Schulte: If you have money, start shopping soon. Make a list of the bare necessities, and check it twice.

Schulte, originally from Dayton, already checked off much of her shopping list weeks before moving into her new apartment in Wolf Run Village.

She’s already bought furniture and a refrigerator for her apartment. When school starts, her major expenses will be food and rent, as she can’t afford much else.

But filling up her apartment with bed and books wasn’t cheap.

Her mom, Jillian Schulte, has helped out by paying half her fees. She’s already helped Schulte pay for much of her shopping.

Once school starts, Schulte will get a job at UNR to help pay the other half of the school’s fees.

By checking out their options ahead of time, Jemma and Jillian won’t have to worry about unpredictable finances.

Each thought UNR was a good school choice because its tuition prices are considerably cheaper than other colleges in the West. Since Jemma is receiving the Millennium Scholarship, living on her own is that much more possible.A typical apartment can cost $445-$1,300 a month (with roommates). Houses can cost $500-$3,000 a month. A single room can cost $295-$650.

Visiting and accepting the consent form for the “Off Campus Housing” link under “Housing Options” will give you an idea of costs. Sharing an apartment is undoubtedly cheaper, as you will share costs.

Remember, most housing arrangements require a deposit that can be equal to the monthly rent or more. Shop around, and make sure you like the people you live with.

Secondly, double-check the lease, so you know you will have the option to leave if you want to after school ends. Some leases require you to stay.Incoming freshmen commonly live in the dorms. After all, it’s a convenient walk to school, and many services are easier to access for on-campus students, McCloud says.

Anna Peters, a 20-year-old business major, started her college life in the dorms, and for the most part, considered many of her financial worries over after she applied for loans and paid her tuition.

It wasn’t that simple: Peters still needed to pay for a meal plan, a dorm room and her tuition—and then there were the extras.

Although she presently lives in an apartment and has more financial responsibility, such as paying for a car, rent and tuition, she recalls the dorms as being a safe haven for students who’ve never had to pay separate bills for things like rent, power, water, cable, Internet and meals.

“Before, it was kind of laid out for me,” Peters said. “I knew how many meals I had to use a day and how much Advantage Cash I had because it was right there.”

The choice of dorm will determine the cost. Many new students will live in Nye, White Pine, Lincoln, Juniper or Manzanita Hall. Older students tend to live in Canada or Argenta Hall.

The least expensive dorm rooms are $4,400 a year. The most expensive are $5,590 a year. Dorm rooms are billed by the semester.

All dorms are furnished (some more than others) and have ethernet and cable connections.

The meal plans allowed Peters to monitor how many swipes—meals—she had left so she didn’t constantly have to track how much money was in her bank account.

Freshmen living in the dorms can pay $2,799-$3,799 per year for meal plans (although they’re billed for spring and fall semesters), depending on the plan selected.

With the staples taken care of, “extra” money is spent on books, laundry, extra food, parking and social activities.

If you have already paid for your dorm, then concentrate on your studies. This way, you possibly could earn a scholarship and not have to pay at all.Getting your hands on financial aid shouldn’t be a problem once school begins, though maintaining your eligibility for future aid can be.

Last fall, Nevada gave $16 million in Millennium Scholarships to eligible students, according to Kathy Besser, chief of staff for the state treasurer’s office.

In the 2005-2006 school year, UNR’s new freshmen received roughly $4.5 million in loan and grant money.

In the same year, UNR’s new freshmen received approximately $2.3 million in scholarships, not including the Millennium, according to Lourdes Gonzales, financial aid and compliance training advisor at UNR. According to Besser, students can lose their $10,000 Millennium Scholarships in one of three ways.

The first is getting bad grades. The second is by taking fewer than 12 credits. Third, students may lose scholarships by not making progress toward degrees.

Some scholarships may have other requirements, such as taking a particular class.

For incoming freshman (Class of 2005) students must meet the required 2.6 GPA (grade point average) in the first year (30 credits) and maintain a 2.75 GPA after that to keep the Millennium Scholarship.

Each semester, a full-time student will be given $960 (12 credits at $80 each). The $960 will be subtracted from the $10,000 total.

Students have as many chances as needed to regain the scholarship the first time it’s lost. But, if it is lost a second time, the scholarship is gone.

Although it has been reported the Millennium Scholarship account is on shaky financial ground, Besser says otherwise, stating that this year, $27.5 million in Millennium Scholarships will go to students.

Sami Baldock, a 19-year-old pre-business major, is one of those students. She’s continuing her education the way she began it—financially worry-free.

After high school, Baldock paid her tuition with the Millennium and a Reno Gazette-Journal scholarship. She also received other grants and loans to help pay for her first year in the dorms.

Now in her second year of college, she’s managed to keep a good thing going by studying her way to even more scholarships.

“The first semester is really, really important,” Baldock said. “I don’t think kids understand that. They’ll say, ‘Oh, first semester, I’ll be OK,” but based on the GPA of the first semester, I got some scholarships.”

Her scholarships included some she didn’t apply for, which were given to students with outstanding GPAs. One she did apply for was from the Nevada Women’s Fund.

After all was said and done, her financial worries seemed nonexistent.

“All of this scholarship money covers everything,” Baldock said. “I always like to get more scholarships, so I don’t have to pay for my books because they are so freaking expensive.”

Students would be foolish not to apply for at least one scholarship, such as the University’s General Scholarship. Its deadline is Feb. 1.

According to UNR’s financial aid Web site, some Entering Freshmen General University Scholarships are given “automatically to students whose academic credentials presented in their admission application qualify them for an award.” These scholarships include the Blue and Silver ($2,500 semester), the Nevada Scholars ($1,000 semester) and the Pack Pride Scholarship ($500 semester).

High school GPA and college entrance examination scores are considerations for these scholarships. Students who make the grade can renew scholarships their sophomore year.

As far as loans go, McCloud says the Stafford Loan could be an option for freshmen, as it doesn’t require a co-signer, and the government could make interest payments while the student remains in school.

Most freshmen won’t need loans, says McCloud, but the option to receive $2,620 a semester is there.

As a general rule for students, begin the financial aid process by applying for FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, McCloud says. The process is fairly simple. Visit, and the Web site will guide you through your application. Be ready to dish out your and your parent’s tax information.

By applying for FAFSA, you could be offered certain loans and aid through the federal government.

UNR’s financial aid Web site states that many upper classmen will receive departmental scholarships based on their academic excellence within their major’s department.Those who want a job to make the extra cash can find many around campus.

One of the easiest ways to look for jobs is by logging on to UNR’s Career Navigator Web site at Students can access UNR’s Career Navigator with a university e-mail and password. The Career Navigator gives students the option of posting a resume, credentials and information for prospective employers and also allows job hunters to search for internships.

Students can also browse the UNR job board for jobs on and off campus.

Working on campus is convenient for many students. Others may prefer working off campus. The key is to manage work and schoolwork so neither is neglected.

The benefits of a job are obvious. However, there are detriments. If you can’t handle the job and school, it could mean losing out on study time—and later, a passing grade.

There is always help for those who can’t get a grip on their finances. It’s not an unusual problem for new college students.

The Student Financial Aid Office can answer many questions that students and parents have concerning financial aid, says McCloud, “When should I get my financial aid? Why isn’t my son getting financial aid?”

Students and parents should learn to communicate their finances openly. Students also should be honest when it comes to losing financial aid.

“If they don’t seek out the help, it’s harder to reach them,” McCloud says. “We want students to know that they can ask for assistance.”

Those with questions about financial aid or scholarships can visit or call 784-4666. For info regarding housing, visit