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Life Lessons: Debt-free, stress-free college

By Nancy Werteen, Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 10 2013 04:00:00 AM CDT

Life lessons debt-free college

Out of the nearly 20 million Americans who attend college each year, about 60% will take out loans to cover all of their costs.

Getting accepted to college is one thing, making it through college debt-free is another.

Thousands of incoming freshmen will be faced with this challenge in the coming weeks.

Jasmine Roldan just got this acceptance letter from the University of Central Florida.

"You can ask my mom, she was there," says incoming college student Jasmine Roldan. "We were jumping up and down."

Jasmine's mother, Millie Roldan, says, "I am excited and sad at the same time."

Now the pressure is really on with food, fun, and finances.

"It's scary but a nice test to see how I am going to do in the future," Jasmine said.

University of South Florida freshman Courtney Whitaker has racked up more than $2,000 in credit card debt.

"I feel right now it's at its worst," admits Courtney Whitaker, a college freshman.
Courtney says her bank pushed the plastic.

"I was paying for books. I was paying for my parking permit. I was paying for food or, you know, anything," Courtney said.

USF Financial Aid Director Billie Jo Hamilton says Courtney is not alone.

"Often times right from the bat when they get here, they may be struggling with having enough money," explains USF Financial Aid Director Billie Jo Hamilton.

Hamilton suggests using free services on campus like movies, concerts, and the rec center. If you have a meal plan, use it.

Make a budget, something Hamilton says most college students don't know how to do.

For Courtney, it's been a spiral of spending.

"You could walk out the door and say oh I'm really hungry, and then you know that you don't have much money in your debit card so you're like, oh well, I have basic free money on my credit card so I'll use just that," says Courtney.

Jasmine hopes her college days don't lead to a credit crunch.

"I've been waiting for this my whole life," concludes Jasmine.

Student debt has become such a problem that the University of South Florida is starting a new program that will counsel students specifically about finances.

It will also keep tabs on students' finances. If a student is going into debt at a rapid pace, counselors will be alerted.