Navigating the Financial Impacts of COVID-19 as a College Student

*Editor’s note: This year-long series about financial literacy is sponsored by PSECU.

If you’re a college student, you’ve likely felt some large effects of this ongoing global crisis. Your campus has closed, you’ve transitioned to online classes, and large events, including graduation, may have been canceled. 

On top of this, you probably have questions about managing your money during this time and how this crisis can impact your finances. As you face these financial concerns, we’ve compiled some frequently asked questions and tips to address them.  

“I’ve lost income from my part-time job and now I can’t afford to pay my bills. What do I do?”

There’s no shortage of costs for college students – from tuition and housing or rent to cell phones and car-related expenses. If you’re like many students, you may work on or off campus to earn the necessary funds to cover them. 

So, what do you do if you find yourself with minimal or no hours at your job during this time? While the exact steps you need to take to address each specific financial obligation may vary, there are a few general things to consider:

  • Get yourself organized – If you don’t already have a budgeting worksheet in place, put one together. Capture all sources of income and all expenses you’re responsible for. This will help you get organized as you determine where you may need to make cuts or ask for alternate payment arrangements. 
  • Consider what you can cut – If you’re not able to make ends meet, consider what “nice to have” items can come off your expenses list. You may be able to put a gym membership on hold or temporarily cancel music or video streaming subscriptions. 
  • Ask for help before your payments are late – If you know there’s a bill you can’t afford, reach out for help as soon as possible. Whether it’s a utility company (think electric or gas for your off-campus apartment) or a loan (think credit card or student loans that are in or approaching repayment), there may be options to skip a payment or be switched to an alternate payment plan. Don’t wait until your payment is late to ask for assistance. A missed payment could negatively impact your credit and remain on your credit report for up to seven years, making it harder to reach your financial goals in the future. 

“I moved home and have an off-campus apartment that I’m not using now. Do I still have to pay my rent?”

While it may not feel fair, you’re likely still on the hook for rent payments if you signed a lease for an off-campus apartment, even if you’re not living there. However, it may be worth it to reach out to your landlord to determine if there are options to relieve you of your rent obligation. 

As you communicate with your landlord, make sure you capture any agreements in writing so that you can reference them later and have a paper trail if any issues arise. And more importantly, don’t stop paying your rent unless you’ve come to a written agreement that allows you to do so. As mentioned above, late bill payments can damage your credit and hurt your ability to reach financial goals in the future. 

Have roommates? Make sure you’re all involved in the conversation, not only about rent, but about other shared bills, such as electric or Internet, that you’re no longer using. Clear communication is important so that everyone understands their responsibilities and can protect their finances and credit. 

“I live on my own and can’t make ends meet. What’s going to happen?”

If you live on your own, whether school’s physically in session or not, many states have put measures in place to protect consumers. Pennsylvania’s Office of the Attorney General, for instance, has put together a guide that outlines information on utilities, evictions, student loans and mental health resources, among other things. According to the guide, presently, water, electric, and heat cannot be turned off during this crisis. Check with your local and state governments to see what help may be available to you. 

“I’ve heard about economic impact payments. Will I get a check?”

The IRS has a lot of information regarding economic impact payments on their website. This outlines who’s eligible for an economic stimulus payment and what the amounts may be. Your eligibility, as well as the amount you may receive, is impacted by a number of factors, including income and dependent status (whether you can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes). To read information directly from the IRS about this, visit their Economic Impact Payment Information Center

“I’m graduating this spring. Will COVID-19 impact me getting a job?”

navigating financial impacts covid-19 college student

The impact that COVID-19 has on your ability to get a job may depend on the industry you’re planning to enter. Healthcare systems, for instance, may be in greater need of additional employees during this time. Other industries, however, may need to cut costs and implement temporary hiring freezes until the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their businesses begins to lessen. 

If you’re looking to join an industry in which hiring has been negatively impacted, there are still things you can do to help keep your job search moving:

  • Get (and stay) connected – Whether it’s professors from school or business professionals in your desired geographic area, don’t let social distancing measures keep you from connecting digitally with those who could help you land a job. If you don’t know where to start, check out existing virtual networking opportunities being offered through your campus, local chamber of commerce, or other established networking communities
  • Keep your documents up to date – Your school’s career center is a great place to start to get any job-hunting documents reviewed and updated. You may be able to get feedback on resumes and cover letters or participate in virtual mock interviews to be fully prepared when you’re offered an interview. If you can’t take advantage of these services before you graduate, you might still be able to afterward. Many schools offer help to alumni, too. 
  • Sharpen your skills – While you’re likely still managing work from several courses, if you find yourself with extra down time now, or after graduation, use the time to expand your knowledge. Many organizations are offering free access to online courses in topics ranging from traditional academics to personal finance. Putting your free time to good use now could help you impress an interviewer or discover a better way to manage your future personal or professional life. 

Choose a Financial Institution that Makes it Easy for You

While you’ve likely transitioned to completing most of your daily tasks virtually, make sure your financial institution is one that makes it easy for you to manage your money anytime, anywhere that’s convenient for you. If you’re a member of PSECU, learn more about how we’re here to help and how our digital tools make it easy to manage your money on the go, without a need for visiting in-person locations. If you’re not a member, learn more about who we are and what we offer

The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Some products not offered by PSECU. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs, or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.

Sponsored by PSECU