Settle Your Credit Score

The Financial Aid Office (FAO) of SUNY New Paltz hosted a program Wednesday, April 6, to help students balance their finances.

The program focused on effective budgeting, the ins and outs of student loans, how to avoid identity theft and the dangers of credit cards. The FAO enlisted the help of Mary Turner, a representative from the Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC), to lead the presentation.

During the workshop, students received their own one-on-one session with Turner, according to Camille Suckie, a financial aid advisor at New Paltz.

Turner provided tips that she hoped would save students money in the end.

Turner began by stressing the benefits of budgeting money. For instance, she suggested that students record their spending in black and white. This can either be done daily, weekly or monthly. However, Turner said the more often someone does it, the more beneficial it becomes.

“When you start knowing where your money goes, that’ll make a difference,” Turner said.

Turner warned heavily against using credit cards as well, only using them in emergency situations.

“If you can’t pay it monthly, is that [insert object of interest here] really worth it?”  Turner said.

Every credit card has an interest rate and that interest adds up in the end. Turner presented a scenario where an individual charged $2,500 on a credit card that had a yearly interest rate of 19.9 percent. She said if they paid $100 a month, it would take them nine years and one month to pay it off. That one charge could follow them, she said.

Missing the monthly payments on these cards could do some damage on credit score. Credit scores can range from 300 to 800, according to Turner. A good credit score is considered anything from 700 or more. Every time a payment is missed, credit score can decrease. She advocated those wanting to check their credit score at least once a year visit

Turner informed the students that car insurance companies, health insurance companies and many other agencies use a person’s credit score to help determine their rate. The better the credit score, the more money a person can save overall, she said.

She said checking credit score could help avoid identity theft, as well.

“You can check if anyone is signing up for credit cards, or loans in your name [when you check your score],” Turner said. “This can keep you on top of fraudulent claims while protecting your credit score.”

In addition, Turner touched upon repaying student loans.

“Pay the interest while you are in school,” she said. “This will save you a tremendous amount of money in the long run.  You will avoid  paying interest on top of your interest.”

As a financial aid advisor here at New Paltz, Suckie deals with students and their loan issues frequently. She sees a lot of students borrow money without knowing the difference between the types of loans. She believes that this workshop provided the students with the financial smarts they need to be successful.

“Definitely if you are taking on any debt, know the conditions,” Suckie said. “A lot of students borrow loans and do not know the conditions.”

Suckie plans on continuing this workshop at New Paltz next fall. She said she hopes more students will attend these workshops so they can learn about these tips in order for them to be in good financial standing by the time they graduate from college.