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Free course pays big dividends

Live Like a Student

Three weeks. Six classes. Thousands of dollars. UNI students can invest a little time and receive big payoffs now and for years to come by taking the free course Live Like a Student. This non-credit course is offered by the Office of Student Financial Aid several times a semester, which means it can fit into almost any student's busy schedule.

"By taking the class, students learn how to take hold of their financial future now," said Tim Bakula, associate director, Office of Student Financial Aid. "They explore personal budgeting, the use of credit and credit cards, student loans, and how to protect their identity.

"Of these topics, some students may not think learning about loans is important because they don't have student loans or their parents pay for their education," Bakula continued. "Students will likely finance a car or home at some point in their lives, so the borrowing information they learn will help them after college as well."

One of the exercises students participate in is tracking their spending; they're often shocked by what they find. Bakula said many students spend money when they're bored, stressed or when shopping with friends who buy things. Mistakes like these can empty a wallet or drive up debt in no time. And if students are brutally honest about the number of pizzas, cups of coffee and T-shirts they buy, they may choose to make changes in their spending habits once they see the figures in black and white.

Any UNI student can enroll in this money management course. "Grad students can share the lessons they learned as an undergrad, so perhaps their younger classmates won't make the same mistakes," said Bakula.

Concrete ways students can avoid derailing their finances include understanding their financial capacity (what goes in and what goes out), paying bills on time to avoid late charges and accumulating interest, borrowing only what they need, using credit cards only for emergencies and sticking to a budget.

With each class they attend, students can enter their name in a drawing to win one of three $500 scholarships awarded each semester. That kind of cash can certainly bolster a bank account.

In addition to taking the course, students can obtain personalized budgeting assistance and information about their award notification and ubill by scheduling a one-on-one money management counseling session at the financial aid office.

"This class should be mandatory," said one Live Like a Student participant. "It could open students' eyes because a lot of them believe they know a lot, but they don't. And they just don't understand that if they mess up now, it will affect their future."

Students can learn how to positively affect their future by registering for this free class at