Managing Finances in College: Learning Essential Skills

The freedom that often comes with enrolling in college is definitely exhilarating, but it also presents new challenges, particularly when it comes to managing finances.

Staying on top of your money during college won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it once you graduate. College is a good time to start thinking about how you manage your budget as you prepare for what’s next. “It’s about planning for the future,” said Ken Kederian, EdD, MBA, CPA, CGMA, chair of Accounting and Economics in Azusa Pacific University’s School of Business and Management.

Learning basic financial management concepts early can help you control your finances in college and beyond.

Accessing Free Money Management Resources

Basic money management principles aren’t usually taught in high school or around the dinner table so the need for financial literacy training for college students is common. APU’s economics professors are available to help advise students. For example, John Thornton, PhD, CPA, the LP and Bobbi Leung Chair of Accounting Ethics at APU, teaches financial literacy courses through general education seminars.

You can also look to APU's TRIO Student Support Services, a federally funded grant program. The program works with students from low-income families, first-generation students, and those with disabilities to learn financial literacy. The program provides support to help students make informed decisions about loans and scholarships. It also awards up to 10 scholarships per year for first- and second-year students.

“As a TRIO program, our goal is to reduce student dependency on loans, but that doesn’t mean that all loans are bad,” said Rhonda Jones, EdS, program director of APU’s TRIO Student Support Services. “It’s about making an informed decision.”

Balancing Work and Study

Staying on top of your budget in college is important, but you also need to embrace a healthy balance between work and school. “If you’re constantly worried about how to pay for school, or if you’re always feeling like you have to work two to three jobs just to maintain tuition, it can be really challenging to focus on learning and growing,” Jones said.

Jones said that each college student needs to decide if they can handle a part-time job or if that will put too much strain on their classwork. “If you have or have been assigned federal work-study, use it,” she said. “It is the best option for a part-time job.” You can see if you qualify for work-study programs on your financial aid letter. For those who do qualify, you must use it or you’ll lose access to it.

Saving for Emergencies

Financial challenges often come quickly and without warning—dental work, car repairs, academic supplies, and more—making it essential to build a savings account. Having access to savings can help you avoid taking out unnecessary loans or turning to friends and family when unexpected expenses arise.

“Save. Even if it’s not a lot, because things happen,” advised Jones. “Sometimes parents are available for help and sometimes they’re not, so create a little nest egg for yourself in case something comes up that’s unexpected.”

Becoming Financially Literate

Whether you’re starting your freshman year or wrapping up your college career, it's essential to learn about managing your finances. APU not only wants to equip students with competitive degrees but also wants each student to feel empowered to make wise financial decisions during and after college.

Find more help understanding and managing the cost of your education at APU’s Student Financial Services page.