Ah, college. A wonderful, slightly confusing, sometimes overwhelming, but always rewarding experience. Despite bettering ourselves with a degree, no one prepared us for how expensive the process can be. And we’re not just talking about tuition—we saw the fees and did the research—but everything else that comes along with getting an education.
Want to save a little money and make your life easier? Read on to discover budget-friendly tips and tricks.
Being Not Rich
In January, Lauren Schandevel started to compile a document called “Being Not-Rich at UofM.” To her surprise, the guide soon became featured in national news sources. Schandevel grew up in Warren, Michigan; in the fall, she will be a senior at the University of Michigan.
Why did you decide to start compiling the Being Not-Rich at UofM guide? It was a response to an affordability guide that our Central Student Government put out in January. There was some tone-deaf advice in there like firing your maid, selling your car. If it was just that one, isolated incident, I don’t think people would have responded as strongly, but the university has a history of not accommodating low-income students. I saw a lot of anger, so I decided to channel it into something good. I started making a document with housing, employment, food, and I made it so anyone could make comments or suggestions. It just grew from there.
What has surprised you about the public reaction to the document? I thought it would be hard to find people to contribute to the guide, let alone write articles about it and publish them in national media outlets. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive.
What changes would you like to see in the way UofM handles economic diversity? I would like to see the University of Michigan acknowledge that it has moved away from being a welcoming place for low-income students. A report came out a few years ago that said our median income on campus is $154,000, and 66% of our students are in the top 20% of income distribution. While it might increase the size of our endowment to have a lot of out-of-state students coming in and paying double the tuition, it’s also making things difficult for low-income students who might not be as accustomed to a culture of wealth. I think that first acknowledging that issue will allow them to make policies that have the needs of low-income students in mind.
What do you mean when you talk about the culture of wealth? The culture of wealth goes beyond money. It’s not just not being able to afford tuition. It’s also growing up in a “good,” safe neighborhood, attending a good school that prepared you for college, having parents who can guide you through the process and connect you to get a good job. There’s a lot of privilege that goes beyond just financial privilege when you come from money.
What do you think has impacted the positive media reaction to your guide? It’s totally white privilege. You don’t see Black Lives Matter activists on campus getting their photos on the cover of the Detroit Free Press for their activism and having people recognize it. This was the easily digestible package of having a white woman delivering the message. Even if that white woman is poor, it really is perceived differently.
What similar kind of movements have you seen on campus that might not have been as broadly recognized? BSU has had their #BBUM (Being Black at UM) campaign since 2014, so they were obviously talking about being marginalized on the university campus before I did it. South Asian Awareness Network and PILOT also do a lot on the intersection of race and socioeconomic status. Economic issues overlap with race in so many ways. While I lack economic privilege, I’m able to assimilate easier into university culture, and I’m not openly targeted because of my identity.
What are your plans after you graduate? Whatever I end up doing, it’ll be coalition-building between white working class communities like my own and communities of color, who are going through similar economic struggles.
“Being Not-Rich at UM” is a guide, accessible as a Google Doc, for the financially struggling college student. It takes the reader through multiple pages of resources, advice, and opinions on surviving collegiate life, specifically at University of Michigan.
Students can discover the best and most affordable places to live, along with tips on topics such as food, clothing, and textbooks on a tight budget.
Schandevel also includes sections on navigating through Financial Aid, what scholarships are available, how to save money if studying abroad, and lists student organizations for low-income/marginalized students. Helpful advice on finding a mentor, balancing social life with work, and benefiting from on-campus resources–which range from counseling to student employment—is included.
The Guide is hosted as a Google Doc which anyone can access to add or suggest content. Filled with personal experiences and advice from Michigan students, the guide is currently at 89 pages, and with continued student engagement, that number is expected to continue to grow.
Inside the Not-Rich Guide
This section is all about the paid opportunities for students. Work-study, the Undergraduate Opportunity Program, on and off campus jobs and paid vs. unpaid internships are discussed, including the wages for certain positions and what is available.
2. Finding Affordable Books
Every student knows that in addition to tuition prices, the costs of books and supplies for classes add up. Learn where the best places are to buying or renting books for affordable prices, or even for free.
Everyone should be able to afford to eat, and we’re not just talking about a Ramen-Noodle every-night budget. In this guide, you can find tips to when it comes to grocery shopping, what sales to look out for and proper food storage so it lasts longer. It also mentions the Food Assistance Program with a clickable link for readers to check out and see if they’re eligible.
If you’re a first-generation college student within your family, or you’re just looking for more connections to help you throughout your college career, refer to this section. It mentions a mentorship program, how to approach your professors and utilize office hours, along with the proper and professional sending of emails.
A topic most overlooked and not taught to us in school–gain some insight when it comes to saving and budgeting your money. This part of the guide provides links to resources regarding credit unions, credit checks, and free budgeting apps. You can also find detailed information on managing debt and filing taxes.