College Voices

Advice to help college students struggling financially get back on track

How college students struggling financially can get back on track
How college students struggling financially can get back on track

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and changed people's day-to-day lives. College enrollment decreased significantly during the pandemic, with Latino students hit particularly hard

Many students were faced with the tough decision to drop out of school or take a gap semester or year off. Other students have had financial troubles and are unsure how they will pay for school. 

But the experts say: Don't give up! Come up with a plan to go back — and know that there is help available.

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Yanely Espinal, educational outreach director at Next Gen Personal Finance, suggests that students who need to get back on track financially find ways to generate additional income and learn more about what they can do with the money they do have, by reading, listening to podcasts or finding resources online.

"Do everything you can to prioritize your education first. If you can balance work and school, then do it, but if not then don't be afraid to lean on your community for support," Espinal said. 

More from College Voices:
Latino college enrollment was rising before Covid, but the pandemic has taken a toll
The pandemic prompted some Latino college students to rethink their plans after graduation
College graduates are struggling to make up for their 'lost year'

Students who had to take a semester or year off or had to drop out due to the pandemic should re-enroll as soon as possible, said Magdalena Hinojosa, senior vice president for strategic enrollment and student affairs at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. Hinojosa said these students should talk to a financial aid advisor at their institutions to discuss financial incentives and scholarship opportunities. 

For students whose finances changed due to the pandemic, Espinal suggests filing an appeal within their institutions after completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

"Many colleges are looking at financial records from before the pandemic, and that is not reflective of your family's current financial situation anymore," Espinal said. She said students should contact their financial aid office as soon as possible and find out what documents are needed.

Resources available for students include the Latino Community Fund, Hispanic Federation and Casa Latina. Students can also seek organizational support from community partners that get funding from larger foundations or initiatives such as Give Together Now

Hinojosa emphasized that it's never too late to return to school and that a college education provides opportunities for stability and social mobility.

"A college education is one of the few things that can't be taken away from you," Hinojosa said.   

CNBC's "College Voices″ is a series written by CNBC interns from universities across the country about getting their college education, managing their own money and launching their careers during these extraordinary times. Denisse Quintanilla is a senior at Monmouth University studying Spanish and communications with a concentration in media studies and production. She is an intern at CNBC en Espanol, writing scripts for Informe CNBC, while also translating and producing videos to Spanish for Telemundo. Her mentor is Lisa Villalobos. The series is edited by Cindy Perman.

Latinx is a recently coined term intended to be a more gender-neutral way of describing members of the Latino community, but it has not been widely embraced by the community. Latino is used here unless Latinx is specifically referenced by a person or entity.