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.

What College Students Need to Know about Managing Credit Cards

By Alexa Smith

From getting an apartment to buying a car – credit is an important part of your financial history. Once students get to college, it could be the right time to start building your own credit history. But with so many different credit cards and options available – how do you know where to start? How do you know how to stay out of debt? How do you know how to get out of debt? 

ACCENT sat down with Ayeesha Green, a financial coach from the Student Money Management Office to get you started on your financial journey. 

Students might wonder why they should care about credit. They may have their parents helping them out right now or just feel no need to get a credit card.

“Students should care about their credit because it can be the difference between having an affordable lifestyle and a super expensive lifestyle,” said Green.

Without a credit history, you may find you have to put down a higher deposit on an apartment or have a higher monthly payment for your car. Your credit history will also affect your auto-insurance rates. One thing many students do not know, is that employers can pull your credit history as well.

Green noted that ⅓ of employers will pull a modified credit report meaning they cannot see your credit score but they will be looking to see if you have late payments and if you’re financially consistent.

Green said students should start to establish credit as soon as they are ready which is usually when they are in college. However, there is a specific way Green suggests going about building credit. You don’t want to jump in too fast and get a credit card with a ridiculous interest rate and yearly fee.

Instead, Green suggests getting a secured credit card from your bank or credit union. She suggests using it for a monthly payment you are already making, such as Netflix or Spotify. Then set up an automatic payment to that credit card in the exact amount of that subscription. Put the card away and don’t use it for anything else. This will set you up to build your credit score without running the risk of credit card debt.

However, many students have already fallen into the trap of credit card debt and have found themselves with the pressure of paying off loans before even graduating college. For this, Green recommends creating a budget and looking for a place where you can cut back. Whether that’s less Starbucks a month or pausing a Hulu subscription. Take that extra cash and put it towards your credit card debt every month to start paying it off. 

Green also recommends students set up an appointment with a financial coach at the Student Money Management office before opening a credit card. This can help students understand the different types of credit cards better and how to manage their budgets.


To schedule an appointment with the Student Money Management Office, head to their website and click “Schedule Your Appointment”. For more tips, follow them on Instagram @accmoney, on Twitter @ACCMoney512, and on Facebook