AU students get a crash course in managing money

At American University, students must come prepared or quick learn how to manage their money. For many students, college is the first time they are living on their own, which means figuring out how to stick to a budget.

“I ration money pretty well, but a lot of my friends struggle with it,” said Madhavi Reddi, an American University junior.

Students have many expenses: books, clothes and entertainment. But perhaps the greatest expense is food.

At American, freshmen are faced with the decision of what meal plan to buy. Reddi has the 100-meal swipe plan, 200 Dining Dollars and 200 Eagle Bucks per semester. She uses all three everyday and still saves up some money for the summer. But her friends run out of money constantly, forcing them to pay with their credit cards instead.

Some students say budgeting is a challenge because of the cost of food.

“Yeah, I think it’s expensive, because the food people know it’s our only option,” said Tony Cohn, an American University sophomore. “They can jack up the prices.”

Cohn’s meal plan is particularly small, consisting of only 75 swipes, 200 Dining Dollars and 200 Eagle Bucks per semester. Rather than always eating in the dining halls, Cohn chooses to cook in his apartment, which he said helps him organize his money better.

Along with cooking, there are many other options that help students manage their food costs. Jobs are provided around campus. AU sophomore Jordan-Marie Smith works as a residence assistant and a teaching assistant during her summer vacation to help subsidize her expenses.

Ryan Anderson, assistant director of learning communities and assessment for residential education, said American offers resources to help students with managing their money. He added that students get their money’s worth out of their meal plans.

“Students always complain about food in college, but we have good food here,” Anderson said. “And everything depends on the student. Students generally realize pretty quickly.