Young and struggling: Students detail monetary woes
By WVUA23 Digital Reporter Melanie Bumpus
As it gets harder and harder to make ends meet, University of Alabama students say they’re concerned about managing rent, groceries and student expenses. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index went up by 7.5% in the past year, which was the highest increase since February 1982. According to LivingCost.org, the average cost of living for one person in Tuscaloosa is $1,632. Because Tuscaloosa is a college town, many apartments are priced higher than in cities of a similar size. Several young adults said managing their finances is already a challenge, but the rising prices are making things even worse.
UA student Lola Rodrigues said the university should do more to point students toward resources available for those with lower incomes, like food and housing benefits, because many don’t have parents who can help.
Alexis Davis, another student, said her grocery bill is out of control.
“I spent almost a hundred dollars in Walmart, and I only bought the necessities to cook one meal,” said Davis.
Plenty of college students take on a part- or full-time job between classes. Davis has one, she said, but it’s not helping much.
“With gas prices so high, I am considering getting a bike,” she said. “I have to drive everywhere, and having to pay for parking every day (on the UA campus) is insane.”
Davis said she pays between $5 and $6 a day to park at UA because a parking pass is a major expense. A commuter parking pass for students is $340 for a full year.
Anyone can pay to park in visitor spaces, which cost $1 for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour up to $10, or in ParkMobile lots, which cost 50 cents for the first hour and $2 for each additional hour.
The cost of parking is always a big point of contention for students.
“Parking should definitely be part of our tuition,” said UA student Chloe Kowalski. “I am sick of not being able to park my car. The other day I had to park at the Ferg and walk half a mile in the rain.”
College students aren’t strangers to eating on a budget, but those who are already pinching pennies say there’s little left to pinch.
“For the past year, I have had to have two jobs to sustain comfortable living here,” said UA student Autumn Williams, who works for the Crimson White and at the Sella-Granata Art Gallery.
Some students said that while they’re getting parental help, it never feels like enough amid all their expenses.
“My mom buys my groceries,” said T’Kyla Bates. “She sends me $100 a month. And I have a work-study job for leisure things. Once I run out of my monthly allowance from my mom, I’m on campus spending Dining Dollars.”
Dining Dollars are a required expense for any undergraduate student who takes more than nine credit hours a semester. Students are required to put $350 in their Dining Dollars account every semester; any money left over at the end of a school year can be refunded or is transferred into Bama Cash.
Graduate students don’t have that frontloaded cost they can rely on down the line when money gets tight, and sometimes that means added stress, said UA grad student Jeffrey Kelly.
“When I stayed on campus it was easier because I had Dining Dollars,” he said. “I felt like I had access to food and at least there was some money set aside for that. I think I am now more cognizant of what I’m buying and how much I’m spending in a way that I wasn’t when I was on campus.”
No matter where you are in life, you don’t have to go hungry. Food banks and food distribution centers are all around West Alabama, offering anyone in need a way to get food on the table. There are organizations that can help with bills, rent, emergency expenses and childcare costs, too.