Student Debt: How Much Do I Owe?

Although not every student has to borrow money for college, most leave school with some level of student debt. It’s important to keep a running total in order to make future debt decisions and to develop a repayment strategy.

Finding the Balance on Federal Student Loans.  The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is managed by the Department of Education, and gives information on how much you owe in federal student loans.  You can use the NSLDS to obtain your original loan amount, current balance, interest owed, and name of loan servicer. When accessing information, you will need your Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID, which is the same ID used when completing the FASFA.

Finding the Balance on Private Student Loans.  There is not a national database for private student loans, and finding balances on these types of loans can be more challenging.

  1. Ask the original financial institution.  If the loan has been sold to a different entity, the lender should have contact information on which company currently owns your loan.
  2. Ask the financial aid office:  If your original lender is unable to track down your loans, call the Financial Aid Office, and they can assist with identifying who is currently managing your debt.
  3. Check your credit report.  A credit report will list all of your current and past credit obligations, and this should include your student loans. The credit report lists the amount borrowed and loan servicer, and any further information can be obtained by contacting the loan servicer.  You can obtain a free credit report from the three main credit reporting agencies using

For more information, you are encouraged to schedule a coaching session with the UWW Financial Literacy Center.


Become Money Smart!

Money Smart Week® is coming to Whitewater! The campus community, both in Whitewater and Janesville, are invited to attend several events during the 2019 Money Smart Week, April 1-5.

Money Smart:  Adulting 101.  Monday & Tuesday, April 1-2, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, UC Concourse Tables. Test your knowledge of personal finance topics! Stop by our table in the UC to see if you can correctly answer a money question, win a prize, and more importantly, learn about free financial resources available to you on campus.

Cooking on a Dime. Monday, April 1, 4:00 pm, UC275B. Are you looking for ways to save money when preparing meals and purchasing groceries? Amanda Kostman, the Family Living Educator from Extension Walworth County, will be on campus to present and demonstrate ways to ‘Cook on a Dime’. Food samples and door prizes will be available to those in attendance.

GeoCache for College Cash.  Tuesday, April 2, 4-6:00 pm, UC Concourse Tables. GeoCache for College Cash is a contest that operates similar to a scavenger hunt. Using a smart phone or tablet, players read and respond to quiz questions for a chance to win prizes. This fun campus event features personal finance info every student should know. Prizes include a chance to win a $500 national prize, along with local prizes including a Beats Pill, wireless earbuds, gift cards. and swag.

Understanding Credit & Credit Scores.  Wednesday, April 3, 12:00 pm, UWW at Rock County, HS120.  Understanding credit can be challenging.  Summit Credit Union will be presenting a seminar at the UWW at Rock County campus during Money Smart Week to help students understand credit and breakdown a credit score.

Financial Crimes: Awareness & Prevention.  Wednesday, April 3, 2:00 pm, UC264. A loss prevention specialist from UW Credit Union will share relevant information on current financial crimes and how to prevent them from happening to you.

Help, It’s Almost Tax Time!  Wednesday, April 3, 3:30 pm, Hyland 1302. Do I need to file taxes?  If I am a dependent for my parents, should I still file? What is an education credit? Where can I get help to file my taxes?  Get all your tax questions answered by the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) providers at UW-Whitewater. 

Homebuying 101. Thursday, April 4, 3:00 pm, UC262. Are you interested or considering the purchase of a home?  Attend our Homebuying 101 seminar to obtain information and resources from both a local real estate agent and a mortgage lending institution.  They will give guidance and clarity (no sales pitches!) to the many steps of the home purchasing process. 

Paint-A-BankThursday, April 4, 3-5:00 pm, Andersen Library. Get creative and come to Andersen Library to paint a money bank.  This is a make and take event, and banks will be available until supplies run out.

All events are free and open to all.  For more information about these and other nearby events, visit  Money Smart Week® events on campus are hosted by Andersen Library and the Financial Literacy Center.

4 Reasons You Should Check Your Credit Report

When is the last time you checked your credit report?  Sadly, far too few people are taking the time to request their reports.  At a minimum, you should be requesting your free credit report every 12 months.   Here are a few reasons why this is a good idea:

  • Free.  When using, you have access to your credit report for free, once each year, from each of the three credit bureaus – Transunion, Equifax, and Experian.
  • Identity Theft Indicator.  When looking over your credit report, if you find names you don’t recognize, social security numbers that do not belong, or accounts that are not yours, you might be a victim of identity fraud.
  • Monitor Credit.  Just like you monitor credit card bills and bank statements, it’s a good idea to keep track of credit accounts.
  • Correct Inaccurate Information.  If any information on your credit report is incorrect, both personal or account related, instructions are included on how to correct those inaccuracies.

For more information on the process to check your credit report or if you have questions or concerns related to credit, contact the Financial Literacy Center to schedule a coaching session.

It’s Tax Time!

Do you need help filing your taxes? UW-Whitewater provides free tax preparation through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to low to moderate levels of income.  Supervised by accounting faculty, certified student preparers assist members of the campus and area community with their tax preparation and filing.

On Wednesday, February 20 and April 3, representatives from VITA will be available in Hyland Hall, room 1302, starting at 3:30 pm, and all undergraduate and graduates students are encouraged to attend to have their tax questions answered.  In addition, UWW VITA tax clinics are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays through April 10.  Click on the link for specific details.

For other personal finance questions or to set up an appointment to speak with a staff member, call (472-4947), email, or visit the UWW Financial Literacy Center today!

Comparing On and Off Campus Housing

When deciding to live on or off campus, compare the pros and cons before making this big decision.

  • Cost.  Expenses such as security deposits, monthly rent, utilities, and parking should all be considered.
  • Location.  Is the location within walking distance of campus or will transportation be needed?  Consider parking needs, vehicle costs, and if public transportation is available.
  • Privacy.  Dorm rooms generally have shared living space by 2 or more students. Rentals may have more privacy options, but this is determined by number of roommates, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
  • Amenities. Air conditioning, heat control, laundry facilities, internet connection, and dishwasher may be available at rentals; however, living on campus provides daily cleaning of facilities and readily available meals.
  • Security.  Consider door locks, peep holes, and security systems when living off campus.
  • Other.  If contemplating off campus housing, some additional considerations include renter’s insurance, allowable pets, subleasing options, yard work requirements, furnished or unfurnished, and landlord availability.

Once the pros and cons of each category are compared, you can make a decision based on which is most beneficial to your personal situation. For more information and resources on comparing on and off campus housing, visit the Financial Literacy Center and schedule a coaching session today!

8 Misconceptions About Student Loans

Many students need them, but misconceptions exist surrounding student loans.  To make the best financial decisions, students should be aware of common student loan myths.

  1. Student loan debt is good debt. Potentially, it could be upon graduation and landing a job.  If you leave college prior to receiving a diploma, you are still required to pay back your student loans.
  2. Interest on my student loans does not start to accrue until after I graduate.  This may be true of federal subsidized loans, but this statement does not apply to federal unsubsidized loans and most private loans.  Interest starts to accrue upon receiving the unsubsidized loan; however, the interest does not need to be paid until the student drops below half-time status or after the 6 month grace period after graduation.
  3. My student loans automatically renew each year.  Generally, both federal and private loans are only good for one year.  If loans are needed again, students should reapply each school year.
  4. Since I am going to be a teacher, my students loans will be forgiven.  This statement applies to teachers who meet all the loan forgiveness program requirements.  To qualify, teachers need to have worked full-time for five consecutive years in a designated school or service agency that serves students from low income families.
  5. If I can’t pay my student loans, I can file for bankruptcy.  Only in rare extreme hardship cases will student loans be forgiven due to bankruptcy.  The collateral on student loans is your ability to earn in the future.  For this reason, even upon bankruptcy, you still have the ability to earn and the ability to pay something towards your student debt.
  6. My grades are not high enough to receive student loans.  Federal financial aid programs do not have any initial grade requirements.
  7. My parents have not filed their taxes yet, therefore I cannot complete the FAFSA.  Students can complete the FAFSA application using estimated tax information.  When the parents eventually file their taxes, students can go back and edit the application information.
  8. I am responsible to pay back the student loans my parents took out for me.  Ultimately, if a parent takes out the loan, the parent is responsible for repayment of the loan.

For additional resources on student loans,  visit the UWW Financial LIteracy Center or schedule a free and confidential one-on-one coaching session.  We look forward to working from you!

Tracking Expenses Doesn’t Have to be Difficult

It’s the end of the month, and you can’t figure out where all your money went.  You should have enough to cover your expenses, but your bank balance is creeping closer and closer to an unacceptable number. Does this sound like a situation you have ever been in?

Keeping track of your spending can provide insight as to where your money goes each month, and it provides information on where changes may be needed in future budgets.  Fearing the results or lack of motivation may be reasons some choose not to track, but finding a method that works best for your lifestyle might make the task a bit easier.

  • Spreadsheet. Set up a spreadsheet register with income and spending categories to record all transactions.  This setup has the ability to total the categories at the end of each month, and it can keep a running tally of credit card balances.
  • Apps.  Enter income and expenses into a phone or tablet app each month.  Convenience is the major advantage to this method, and there are free financial apps, like, that have the ability to monitor expenses.
  • Pencil  and Paper.  For some, going ‘old school’ is the preferred method.  Each day, write down all income and expenses into a notebook or calendar, being sure to identify categories.  Add up category totals at the end of each month.  Keep pencil and paper readily available in purse, wallet, car, or pocket.
  • Envelope Method. Label  a separate envelope for each of your spending categories. At the beginning of each month, place the budgeted amount of cash into each envelope. Throughout the month, take out the cash for expenses, and return the receipts to the appropriate envelopes. If no receipt for an expense, simply record on a sheet of paper or directly onto the envelope.  Add up receipts at the end of the month for summary totals.
  • Other.  Additional methods include tracking expenses by store (as opposed to spending category), and waiting until the end of the month to label and total categories.

There is no right or wrong way to keep track of your expenses.  Utilize a system that works best for you!  For more information on budgeting or tracking expenses, visit the UWW Financial Literacy Center or schedule a one-on-one coaching session.  We are here to help!

How is a FICO Credit Score Determined?


When wanting to establish credit or raise your credit score,  a basic understanding of the comprising elements can assist you when making financial decisions.  A higher credit score leads to future benefits including lower interest rates, higher loan limits, and overall approval to credit card and loan applications.

How is a FICO credit score determined?

  1. Payment History (35%).  The most important factor in calculating credit scores is payment history. History is used to forecast future behaviors.  Making consistent and on-time payments to your credit cards and loans is one of the best ways to improve your credit score.
  2. Amounts Owed (30%).  FICO views those who habitually max out their credit cards as people who cannot handle debt responsibly.  Borrowers should maintain low credit card balances, and although there is no exact utilization ratio, many financial experts refer to the ‘30% rule’.  Example – If your credit card limit is $1,000, try not to charge over $300.
  3. Credit Length (15%).  A longer credit history offers more information on financial behavior.  It is impossible for a person who is new to credit to have an excellent score, as it takes time.  Those with credit should maintain their long-standing accounts.
  4. Types of Credit (10%).  A mix of credit (accounts, credit cards, and installment loans) is taken into consideration to determine a credit score.  A borrower with a good mix of credit generally represents less risk for lenders.
  5. New Credit (10%).  Borrowers should avoid opening too many credit lines at the same time, for such financial behavior might suggest financial trouble.  Consumers are encouraged to apply for and open new accounts only when needed.

For more resources and information on credit, visit the UWW Financial Literacy Center.

Subsidized vs. Unsubsidized

When discussing financial aid, commonly used terms include subsidized and unsubsidized, but what is the difference between those two words in regards to student loans?

Direct Subsidized Federal Loans are available to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need.  The US Department of Education pays the interest on your loan while you are in school (at least half-time status), for the first 6 months (grace period) after you leave school, and during any deferment (postponement) periods.

Direct Unsubsidized Federal Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students.  Demonstrating financial need is not a requirement.  You are responsible for paying interest during the life of the loan.  While in school, during the grace period, and during deferment or forbearance, you may choose to let your interest accrue, as opposed to making payments. The accrued interest is added to the principal of the loan.

For more information, visit the Federal Student Aid website, the UWW Financial Aid Office, or the UWW Financial Literacy Center.

Success! 4 Simple Tips for College Budgeting

Starting to budget while in college can result in learning how to manage money and plan for the future.  Here are 4 simple tips to creating and maintaining an effective budget:

  1. Track spending.  Record every penny you spend for at least a month before creating a budget.  Be honest about where you are spending your money, and keep a spending log.
  2. Identify Income and Expenses. Use a budgeting worksheet to document your income, then expenses. Income sources would include student loans,  job earnings, gifts, and more. Expenses should come directly from your spending log, and broken into categories like housing, food, entertaining, etc.
  3. Do the Math.  Calculate income minus expenses.  If you have money left over, consider adding to your savings account or an emergency fund.  If you calculate a shortage, start identifying categories where you can cut back.  This is a good time to question your needs versus wants.
  4. Reexamine and Adjust.  Income and expenses change over time.  Maybe you received an additional scholarship, or your landlord raised the rent.  When changes occur, it’s time to reexamine and adjust your budget to stay on track.

The UWW Financial Literacy Center has many free budgeting resources available to students.  Visit our website, or schedule a financial coaching session today!