According to Ben Franklin, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” A more appropriate adaptation of this aphorism for those of us currently in college would be that in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except drinking away your paltry paycheck, and then still having to pay taxes on it. Even the most fiscally responsible and financially savvy college students have those days when bills start building up and minimum wage jobs just aren’t working out the way we want them to.
In the immortal words of rap geniuses, Dead Prez, “We ain’t getting paid commission, minimum wage, modern day slave conditions/ Got me flippin’ burgers with no power/Can’t even buy one off what I make in an hour.” Whether you’re slinging sandals, Starbucks, shots, sandwiches, or slices, chances are that if you’re in college, your paycheck barely covers books each quarter-let alone all the other things required to keep you housed, clothed, fed, and fully capable of enjoying all that UCSB has to offer. With taxes due on April 17, I figured it might be time to investigate ways to deal with this common college student problem. And, with my bills piling up faster than I can say “credit card,” I figured I’d find some of the best places for us Isla Vistans to get help taking charge of our finances before charges take over our lives.
Confused by the complex web of work-study, financial aid, loans, and tax credits available to students at UCSB? You can try navigating the wonderful world of the UCSB Financial Aid Office’s website, but I can tell you from my personal experience that unless you’re someone who is naturally knowledgeable about numbers-which I am admittedly not-it’s not going to make much sense to see all those statistics and percentages swimming around on a computer screen. I’ve learned that if you’re numerically-challenged, the best way to work out which financial aid options are best for you, is to go see one of the Financial Aid Advisers at the actual office. Appointments are available, so you can book some time to receive one-on-one counseling with a real, live person who can help you make sense of what your best bets are in terms of paying for your undergraduate and graduate studies. Trust me, these guys know their stuff-and, they know how to convey it in ways that even the most mathematically dense college student can understand.
Need help knowing what to do about all those non-school related bills piling up on your desk? Well, if the folks at Financial Aid can’t help you, there are some other local resources that might be able to. The Isla Vista Tenants Union can talk to you about your options when it comes to working out what you should be paying for your place of residence-and ways to work things out when you think you’re getting gouged by your friendly neighborhood slumlord (a.k.a. nearly every Isla Vista landlord). With ties to local groups like People United for Economic Justice Building Leadership Through Organizing (PUEBLO), Associated Students Legal Resource Center, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, and the UCSB Community Housing Office, if the IVTU can’t help you, they can definitely direct you to someone who can.
Looking to get a good deal on necessities like laptops, printer paper, clothes, and food? Lots of local businesses offer deals to help college students cover these critical costs without cutting into their beer money. For example, the Financial Aid Office and the UCSB Bookstore offer a program that can help pay you back when you purchase a personal computer-with up to $1,000 in loans available to help pay for that new Macbook you’ve been eyeing since last quarter.
The Student Travel Association office-located inside the UCEN-has information about cheap airfare and travel deals designed especially for starving students with wanderlust. And businesses from the Camino Real Cinema to Sharkeez on State Street offer cheaper prices to those willing to proudly display their student IDs. Plus, as evidenced by my recent experience at the Cingular Store-where I got a great deal on a new phone after telling the salesmen there about my cash-strapped college student woes-and the rumor I just heard about Trader Joe’s offering a student discount if you ask, I’ve always found that it can’t hurt to inquire about whether a place will hook you up when you flash your UCSB identification card.
Going to college is not a cheap endeavor by any stretch of the imagination-especially when you’re going to college in a town where the cost of living is as high as it is in Santa Barbara. And, nothing brings the discrepancy between how much you’re earning and how much you’re spending into sharp relief like the annual accounting that occurs during tax season. Luckily, there are ways to work things out via a variety of local resources, and spending shortcuts. Sure, death and taxes will always be linked in the popular imagination, but that doesn’t mean tax season has to scare you to death; even if you are a numerically challenged college student.