ACC Students Take Control of Their Finances with Help from Student Money Management Office

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

College can feel like the void between childhood and adulthood, but once a young person graduates high school and advances to the higher tier of their education, they are considered adults and must become more responsible for the decisions they make regarding money. 

However,​​ an ING Direct study found that 87 percent of teens surveyed knew little about personal finance. 

Understanding how complicated and frustrating money management skills are, Austin Community College’s Student Money Management Office (SMMO) is here to help students take control of their money. Money management skills are even more crucial for students who plan to transfer to a four-year university, as the financial burden is much heavier in most cases. 

Shannon Pinales, an ACC student who just got accepted to the University of Texas at San Antonio, shared that she was never taught about money in her teenage years. At ACC, she sought help from the Peer Money Mentor Program (PMMP) offered by SMMO. 

Shannon Pinales and her acceptance letter from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Photo provided by Shannon Pinales

“Before I was in that program, even talking about the word ‘budget’ was enough to get me anxious. It wasn’t a territory I could speak about,” Pinales said. 

However, having been in that program for one year, Pinales is now confident that she is at a good place with her budgeting. She has also helped the office with some scholarship workshops behind the scenes. Pinales has learned valuable information about the money sources, where to find them, and how to apply for them. 

“The whole application process is overwhelming,” Pinales said. “But the office has helped me have a better idea of what I need to do on a weekly basis, monthly basis, and so on.”

Pinales, who will be transferring to a four-year university, said that she did not wish to take out any loans and would spend her weekends working on scholarship applications. 

“At ACC, I was able to not take out any student loans and always had a refund every semester,” Pinales said. “My budget would look completely different as I’m transferring to a new school. I don’t want to put any loan pressure on me.” She said she is grateful for learning how to take control of her finances before transferring to a four-year university.

Amber Rodriguez, like most young adults, would spend all the money she had in her bank account because she did not know any better. 

Amber Rodriguez representing her new school, Texas State University. 
Photo provided by Amber Rodriguez

But now, that’s all in the past. Rodriguez now has savings she is building on and extra money in case of emergency thanks to the Peer Money Mentor program.

Rodriguez took part in the Rainy Days Saving Program of SMMO, which has an incentive of $25 in cash to maintain a balance of $475 or more for 30 or more days.

Participating in this program changed Rodriguez’s relationship with money. 

“I had almost $500 in my bank account, which I had never had before,” Rodriguez said. “Having that much money really helped change my mindset and started making it fun for me to save money.” 

What bothers Rodriguez the most regarding transferring are transportation and food costs. When she was at ACC, she had a free transportation card on the bus and train. 

Now studying at Texas State University, Rodriguez takes the bus from North Austin to San Marcos every day. 

“Since I’m at school all day, I’m spending way too much eating out,” Rodriguez said. “I realize I have to start packing more than one meal to save some money.” 

Arjana Almaneih is studying at the University of Texas at Austin and living in North Austin. She does not worry about transportation costs since her husband picks her up after school. 

Arjana S. Almaneih throws up her horns in front of the University of Texas at Austin. 
Photo provided by Arjana Almaneih

However, Almaneih has spent much more on textbooks and food compared to when she was at ACC. She said that professors at ACC were more likely to minimize course materials, so she did not have to spend too much buying textbooks. She has also spent quite a lot of money on eating out since it is inconvenient to pack her own meals.

“Participating in the Student Money Management Office during my two years at ACC completely changed my financial situation, and not to be dramatic, but my life as well,” Almaneih said. “I went from constantly going negative in my accounts and zero savings to living very financially stable. I have three different savings accounts and feel very confident and comfortable with my financial situation.” 

Almaneih is grateful for being a part of and learning from the PMMP. 

“Because of the knowledge I gained, I am attending the number one public university in Texas and the tenth best public university in the United States on a full-ride scholarship as a first-generation student,” Almaneih said. “Because of my time with the PMMP, I will receive my bachelor’s degree with zero debt.”

Almaneih shared practical advice for students at ACC who are trying to build a solid foundation for their finances. 

“I would highly suggest any and all ACC students to get involved with Student Money Management,” Almaneih said. “Whether that’s through a workshop, a financial coaching session, the Rainy Day Savings Program, the peer money mentor program, or just paying attention when they come to your class!”

The PMMP will return in Fall 2022. ACC students can easily find more information and waitlist their names at the SMMO’s website. Information about scholarships workshops and Rainy Days Saving Program can also be found on their website. Students can reach out directly to them by calling 512-223-9331.

Navigating Scholarships

ACCENT reporters Nicholas Brown and Nathan Lu met with three ACC students to hear their experiences applying for scholarships.

Written by Nicholas Brown

Video by Nathan Lu

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Whether it’s paying for tuition, fees, books or other educational expenses, it is no secret that college is expensive. So, when means fall short, how can college students fill in the gaps? Scholarships are part of the answer.

Three students, each a member of Austin Community College’s Alpha Gamma Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, shared how scholarships have contributed to their success as students.

Jennifer Ebert is an education major and attends ACC completely online.

Ebert is the recipient of five scholarships this year alone. These include one scholarship that she was awarded from ACC’s general scholarship application, and four others that she was able to access through PTK. Of the four scholarships from PTK includes the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship, in which Ebert was one of only eight students internationally to be recognized.

“Having these scholarships…having the additional funds for anything that I need…has been able to alleviate that financial burden that I normally feel in a typical semester,” Ebert says. 

Paralegal major, Brandy Lewis, is a non-traditional student who has also received four scholarships from the ACC general application and two from PTK.

“Essentially I have paid for no school and it has actually allowed me to stop working my part-time job. I was working full-time and part-time,” Lewis says. “It relieved a lot of things for me…to be able to get these scholarships and just know that I could fully focus on my studies.”

However, ACC and PTK scholarships are not the only form of additional aid that students can receive. Communications major, Saliyah Parker, has earned non-ACC affiliated scholarships which helped cover multiple semesters worth of tuition.

Parker was awarded her first scholarship from her apartment complex, which offered residents to apply for a scholarship made for adult learners, Parker decided to apply “on a whim.” To her surprise, she was selected.

Parker has also been awarded a scholarship through ACC’s general application. 

“I remember just feeling wowed. You know…overwhelmed in a really good way,” Parker says. 

For some students, applying for scholarships may feel like quite a daunting task. Searching through available scholarship options and crafting the perfect essay can be a timely process. ACC’s general scholarship application can make this procedure feel a little less intimidating. All it takes is a single application and short essay to be considered for hundreds of scholarships. 

“Anyone who is intimidated by filling out an application…break it down into pieces. I didn’t fill any of this stuff out in one day,” Lewis says.

Scholarships can be beneficial in addition to being a form of financial aid. Parker shares how applying for scholarships can form a sense of ambition. 

 “It definitely calls to the forefront a drive to want to apply yourself once you’re selected for that first one,” Parker says.

Not only that, but scholarships also look great on resumes if you plan on applying to transfer or for future employers. 

With the many opportunities that scholarships offer, Ebert insists that students have nothing to lose by putting themselves out there.

“Never be afraid to apply. Don’t be afraid of getting told ‘no’,” Ebert says. “You won’t know unless you apply.”

For information on applying for scholarships for the Spring semester, visit https://www.austincc.edu/students/scholarships.

For students who are interested in joining Phi Theta Kappa, visit https://sites.austincc.edu/ptk/.

Financial Aid for Beginners

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Written by Duncan McIntyre

In the age of COVID-19, students in higher-education institutions around the world have had to cope with a rapidly changing collegiate landscape. Classes are largely being held virtually, and students have had to deal with the financial strain caused by a global economic downturn. Some students may now, more than ever, need additional resources to help pay for school.        

For students at Austin Community College, this help can come in many forms. In addition to federal grants and loans, emergency relief funding from the American Rescue Plan now offers assistance to students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The process to apply for financial aid can be difficult to navigate, and some students may not know what assistance is available. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most commonly utilized tools for students seeking aid, but there are also lesser-known avenues that students can take.                                                                          

Belinda Peña, an outreach coordinator for the ACC work-study program, discussed some of the benefits of applying for FAFSA.                                                                                        

“The main benefit is you’re applying for several types of financial aid all in one application,” Peña said “With just the FAFSA application, students are applying for grants, loans and work-study, which is a type of part-time work that students can do on-campus or off-campus.”                              

Another application, the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) is also available. “The TASFA is very similar – it’s just for a specific population of students.” Peña said “So if they’re undocumented, for example, they may qualify. With the TASFA they’re applying for grant money and work study.”                                                                                                      

The financial aid department also offers resources for students who need help applying for FAFSA and other types of assistance. On their website there are videos with step-by-step instructions, and a chatbot that students can use 24/7 to locate relevant information.                     

The department also offers virtual workshops at certain times of year. In October, when the FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens; there will be a month of workshops that students can attend to get help completing their applications.                                                   

Peña also encourages students to seek alternative forms of aid. “Here at ACC we have over 600 scholarship opportunities that only require one application,” Peña said “On our website we also have a list of external scholarships. You can apply for external scholarships that are offered through different nonprofits and organizations throughout Texas.”                                                    

Isabel Torres is a single mother, an ACC student, and a participant in the work-study program. In regards to the financial aid process, Torres said “It was super easy. Financial aid was really good about giving me the steps for doing the financial aid application and explaining the differences between the grants.”                                                                                                        

Torres also connected with student assistance services, where she was able to find help caring for her child while continuing to pursue her education. “I have a daughter who’s 4, and she goes to the ACC child lab. She’s got great instructors,” Torres said.                                        

Isabel Torres smiles at the camera wearing a red sweater while her daughter sits on her lap smiling as well.
Austin Community College student, Isabel Torres, and her daughter. Torres has utilized ACC’s student assistance services to complete her FAFSA and access childcare which is helping her complete her schooling. Photo provided by Isabel Torres

Before coming to school, Torres was concerned about the affordability of education. “It was not in the budget at all,” Torres said. “Financial aid was a really crucial part of continuing my education.”                                                                                                                          

Students may be offered participation in work-study in their financial aid package. In work-study, they can earn $15.60 an hour, but unlike traditional aid such as grants and loans, students don’t have access to all the money offered at one time.                                                           

Torres recommends the program to all students. “The best thing about it is that you can make your schedule, you’re not going to be forced to work 40 hours a week,” Torres said. “The program is really flexible.”                                                           

As a participant in the program, Torres is employed by Student Affairs and works closely with advising and academic coaching counselors. In doing so, she has gained essential skills that will help her in careers to come.              

“I learn a lot of tools that are essential, especially interacting with people. Communication is going to be essential no matter what career I intend to go towards,” Torres said.                  

For students who are curious about the work-study program, or are trying to find help paying for school, Isabel has these words of advice: “I feel that at some point each student should try to meet with an advising counselor or check out student assistance resources. There are so many good tools that we offer. They really do want to help. You can ease the burden of responsibilities and focus on your future.”                                                                                                                          

The FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens in October, but applications are still available for students who have already started classes and who need aid.  Students looking for help paying for school can contact the student services help desk by calling 512-223-4243.

Student Discounts

Story by: Nalani Nuylan

Money makes the world go round. With bills, gas,  and tuition, life can be hard for a student on a strict budget. But don’t think that a tight wallet will determine your resources. By using your ACC Student ID or email you and fellow Riverbats can save a little cash while receiving the same quality product if you were to pay at full price.

The Austin Metro:
CapMetro is Austin’s public transportation system with a plethora of bus routes, a train line that runs from Downtown East Austin to Leander and paratransit services. ACC students can get all Metro services for free using the ACC Green Pass. The Green Pass can take students to all 11 Austin campuses. All riders must show their ACC ID upon request. To learn how to find out more click here.     

Adobe Products: 
This one is for all the artists’. Riverbats have a special student discount for using Adobe Creative Products. Adobe and its various software can help you create anything and everything from graphics to videos to animations to your website. All you need is to start your seven-day trial as a student and provide your ACC email to save over 60 percent of what an individual would spend using Abode.  

Spotify Premium Student: 
With Spotify’s Premium Student, you as a student of ACC can listen to songs offline without interruptions and get both Hulu and Showtime for only $4.99 per month. If you graduate or transfer out of ACC, Spotify will give you up to 12 months from the date you subscribed, while the services are available to re-verify your student price. Students can also cancel anytime.  

The Balton Museum of Art: 
Located on UT’s Campus, this art museum is student-friendly. When shown an ACC ID,  students have a five-dollar entry fee compared to the $12 emission fee for the standard adult. With upcoming exhibits such as Medieval Monsters this October and Cabaret Crusades III: The Secrets of Karbala, a three-dimensional puppeteer piece, in December there is plenty of visual wonders to explore. 

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema:
Who doesn’t love a movie with some amazing food? With their six locations throughout the Austin area, there is no reason to go see a movie. When you show your student ID, your ticket will cost the matinee price regardless of the time of day. So the next time you have a little free time from homework, treat yourself with some classic queso and a blockbuster at the Alamo. 

Dell:
Based in Round Rock, Dell offers a wide range of discounted products for University students as well as the military. All you need to do is click on the category that fits you, then happy shopping!

 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of restaurants and retail stores that offer student discounts that we didn’t cover. If you are on a budget the best thing to do is ask whenever you are out shopping. Saving money and using your student status while you have it is the smart thing to do, so use it.