Affording the College Life: A Student Forum

Students talk to staff members about Financial Aid

Teenage Hollywood movies made up a big chunk of how I imagined college life to be. Crazy parties … lots of them, food fights and little to no homework. There has to be a fraternity or sorority in which you can only get in by passing some humiliating test. And, of course, let’s not forget about neverending battles between nerds and “cool kids.” But the reality is not what we see on the big screen. 

Student writing on the poster her ideas of balancing school and work
“How do you balance work + school?”

I was always under the impression that college is like high school. Do your homework on time and you’ll be fine; no need to worry about anything else. Plus, no one would ever ground you for coming home late. Well, once those enormous bills come crushing down on your shoulders, you realize that your life is different now and you need to take care of many aspects of your college life that you hadn’t considered before.

Students ask staff members financial-related questionsEvery semester I would have so many questions about my financial aid, billing, places to find scholarships or even job opportunities, that it’s not even funny. Being a commuter, having mostly night classes, it seemed a “mission impossible” for me to see an academic advisor, financial aid counselor, Bursar and Office of Career Advancement in the same week. Yeah … you can read information on the website, but we all know that nothing is more efficient than talking with an actual human being. That’s why on November 21 I decided to attend “Affording the College Life: A Student Forum,” where university faculty and staff members gathered for an hour at a room in the Student Center to discuss financial literacy-related issues with students.

Table with free food was offered to anyone attending the eventAs promised, before the entrance to the meeting room, a long table with different food options was waiting for me. Iced tea and a turkey club wrap… mmm. I wish such events would happen every time I am on campus. Anyhow, I found myself a seat close to a couple of other students in the same row and waited for a presentation to begin. Dr. Alison Novak, assistant professor from the College of Communication & Creative Arts, opened with a short speech explaining what the Affordability Task Force is, and introduced Dr. Rory McElwee, vice president for Enrollment and Student Success, who in turn introduced every Affordability Force Task member and a person from the Bursar and Office of Career Advancement (about 12 to 14 people). Now I have not only the names of people who I can go to for help, but know their faces as well. 

Student ask staff members about financial aidIn brief, the Affordability Force Task is a group of faculty, staff and students striving to understand students’ financial needs and implement more resources to help. The event wasn’t a typical one-way communication, but instead a series of live engaged conversations. Students shared their thoughts on how to make college life more affordable and proposed ways to balance work and school. And in turn, not only were Affordability Force Task members available to discuss any issues, but they also provided students with a free bag full of different University fliers and brochures, so once at home students can review important deadlines, or even hang the most important information somewhere in their room as a reminder.

A poster: What Financial Resources Would be Helpful to you as a Student Personally, I don’t know any student who wouldn’t have any financial-related questions to ask. There is always something in a back of my head that I want to know the answer to that will make earning my college degree more affordable and accessible. So don’t miss your next opportunity. Follow the University Resources page for upcoming events. If you feel like you have some creative ideas to share with the Affordability Force Task team to help other students to avoid financial struggles, then simply email them at or visit their webpage for more information. 

What questions would you ask the Affordability Task Force team?

By: Natalia Panfilova