Powercat Financial Counseling


We are very excited to announce that the KSU SGA Blog is be partnering with Powercat Financial Counseling! From now on PFC’s blog enteries will be posted on this page in addition to being posted on their blog (http://blogs.k-state.edu/pfc/).

For more information on PFC:

Powercat Financial Counseling
Kansas State University
809 K-State Student Union
Manhattan KS 66506-2800



Ways To Make Money In College

1. Sell your plasma
Want to earn about $250? Well that’s how much you can make in total after 5 trips! Thereafter, it’s $20-$37 for each weekly trip. So if you aren’t afraid of needles, go for it! Go to www.cslplasma.com for more information from the Manhattan plasma donation center.

2. Sell stuff you don’t need
Do you have textbooks from a few semesters ago that aren’t doing you any good other than collecting dust? Make use of ecommerce sites like eBay, Amazon and Craigslist and sell them along with items such as gently used clothes, shoes and furniture. An alternative is to sell back books to Varneys Bookstore before finals week!

3. Participate in research studies and clinical trials
Are you comfortable with being asked questions and being studied by people in lab coats? Inquire about research studies being conducted by the many programs at K-State. A good place to start would be the Psychology Department that can be found in Bluemont Hall.

4. Get a part-time job
Make use of the Career and Employment Services website. It’s a great resource to find local jobs and internships. If you would like to make a little more than $7.25 an hour consider working for tips at a restaurant or bar.

5. Baby/pet-sit
If you have some time on your hands and you like pets or kids then this might be the right opportunity for you! These days, babysitters make upwards of $15 an hour. There are people who also need house sitters for when they take trips away from home, so ask around.

6. Take online surveys
Companies like Amazon and many others are in need of people to complete their surveys! You won’t make much but it does add up. Some surveys can be interesting and fun, too!

7. Recycle
If you support the Green Movement and you consistently recycle, why not get paid for it? Instead of using your campus-sponsored service visit your local recycling center and trade in your recyclables for some money.

You won’t become filthy rich with these tips but they are simple ways to have a little more $ in your pocket!

Gerald Mashange
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling



Preparing Your Budget for Spring Break

In case you missed PFC’s “It’s Spring Break NOT Spring Broke” event yesterday, here are some tips to help you stick to your budget during spring break. Start planning what you will do, how you will get there, what it will cost, and any additional spending money you will need for it.

Compare flight prices in an incognito browser (aka private browser). An incognito browser won’t release your IP address to the site, which can prevent sites from raising prices on a second visit in order to pressure customers into buying too quickly or without further research. In Chrome, click the menu button on the top right. In Firefox, click on the drop down menu in the top left. On Safari, click on Safari in the top task bar. And in Internet Explorer, click on the safety tab on the menu. Some sites to look at for comparing travel prices are:

  • http://www.kayak.com/
  • http://www.expedia.com/
  • http://www.priceline.com/
  • http://www.amtrak.com/
  • http://www.greyhound.com/
  • http://us.megabus.com/ (though there’s no stations in Kansas, it can help with a connecting trip)

Oftentimes, taking a bus, train, or driving will be largely cheaper than taking a flight, but will take longer. Consider cutting costs by sacrificing a little time. Also keep in mind that prices tend to go up as the date of the trip gets closer. Getting a jump on buying tickets can save you a lot of money.

Compare hotel prices. Most of the travel sites listed above also offer hotel comparisons and discounts. Make sure to research the cost it would be to buy them separately before assuming that the bundle is cheaper. http://www.hotels.com/ is a good site to compare prices. They have deals every now and then for certain hotels and offer a punch card system for booking through their site where you get a free stay after ten nights booked. Since a hotel can sometimes just be a place to sleep at night, consider booking a lower-cost hotel instead of one that has a lot of amenities.

Make SMART goals to save up for the trip. They should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Determine how much you will need for the trip and set a specific amount of money to put away for a specific period of time (each month, each paycheck, etc…), that can fit in your budget and get you the amount needed in time. This will require a good budget to know how much you can afford to set aside each month. Consider stashing away any holiday or birthday money towards it as well.

Christyne Stephenson
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling


What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form that should be completed annually by any college student seeking student loans or grants for the next school year. To get any kind of federal financial aid, you must file the FAFSA. It will determine how much financial need you have for student loans, grants, and even work study. Federal student loans can be either subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are loans that the federal government subsidizes for you while you are a student. That means that the interest on the loan is paid for you. Unsubsidized loans have interest that accumulates while you are in school. Grants do not need to be repaid. They are basically free money given based on need. Work study is given based on need as well. You work on campus part-time and get paid with that money.

Who is it for?

Subsidized loans are available for undergraduate college students with financial need. Unsubsidized loans are available for undergraduate and graduate college students with no requirement to show financial need. You must show financial need in order to qualify for grants and work study as an undergraduate and graduate student. You must also be at least a half-time student to receive federal financial aid.

When should it be done?

Submit your FAFSA application by March 1st for K-State because it is their priority deadline. That is when certain grants will be awarded to needy students. The sooner you submit your application, the better. Keep in mind that every school has a different priority deadline so make sure you know when it is. If you miss the priority deadline, it’s not too late! Go ahead and file your FAFSA as soon as possible.

Where to start?

Complete your FAFSA at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. If you have not completed the FAFSA previously, you and your parents may need to register for a Federal Student Aid PIN. You can do so at pin.ed.gov. Remember that pin and do not share it with anyone. It will serve as your electronic signature at the end of your application.

If you are a dependent of your parents’, then you will need their information in addition to yours. You will need social security numbers, 2013 federal income tax returns, bank and brokerage statements, and your PIN numbers.

You need your tax information for the FAFSA but if you have not done your taxes yet, then you should still submit it with estimates first. You can go back to it later and import your tax information directly to your FAFSA using the tax filing pin you created when doing your taxes.

Renewing your FAFSA

If you have completed the FAFSA before, it will be easier to fill it out now. Your information from prior years will be transferred, then you can just update your information with new tax return information, etc. You can use the import tool to retrieve your income tax information.

Melissa Daovannary
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling


 Your Credit Score: The 3 Digit Number

A 3-digit number affects your financial life significantly. This number is called a credit score. A credit score shows your creditworthiness, and it also indicates the possibility that you will not pay your bills. Different lenders use different scoring formulas to create credit scores, so your score can vary from lender to lender. Most scores range from 300 – 850, but you should have a credit score goal of at least 700.

A good credit score brings you several benefits. Some of the benefits include:
• Low interest rate on credit cards and loans. Interest is charged when you borrow money, and so the interest rate is tied to the cost of loans. With a high credit score, you will be qualified for the best interest rate.
• Higher chance to get loans and credit cards approved.
• Get higher credit limits.
• Better auto insurance rate.

Some tips to achieve and maintain a good credit score include:
• Pay your bills on time. One way to do this is to set up automatic payments at creditors’ websites or from your bank’s website. Pay more than the minimum payment if you have the ability to do so.
• Don’t get too close to your credit limit. If you use too much of your total credit line, you will hurt your credit score. Keep your credit utilization ratio less than 30%.
• Don’t apply for too many credit accounts in a short time, otherwise it will affect your credit score negatively.
• The longer the credit history, the better. The longer time you have credit in your name, the more experienced you are, and the more information creditors have to determine whether you can take care of your finances.
• Get your free credit report every year. You can get three credit reports each year at www.annualcreditreport.com . It is necessary for you to read through your credit report to ensure your information is correct and to verify that you have not been a victim of identity theft.

When you have a low or nonexistent credit score, you will get higher interest rates on loans if you are approved, which are more costly in the long run. When you apply for jobs, many companies perform background checks as a part of the interview process and they are going to check your credit. Some companies also check your credit history when you are considered for promotions.

To check your credit score for free go to www.creditkarma.com. If you would like to meet with a financial counselor to discuss your credit report or score, simply request a free and confidential appointment at www.ksu.edu/pfc.

Lei Cao
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling


Money and Relationships

Research shows that money is the number one argued point in all relationships, and therefore we all need to spend more time talking about our finances with our partners. Sometime throughout life we have all probably experienced the profound effect money can have on our relationships. Money is a hard issue to talk about because it is usually a subject we are not necessarily overjoyed to sit down and figure out. Whatever relationship you may be in, when money is involved, you need to be taking time to talk with your partner and figure out your financial situation.


One major issue with money in relationships is where and how each person spends money. It is essential that a spending plan is made, with each person contributing to it, that each person will stick with. When there is a concrete spending plan in place that each person is willing to adhere to, the relationship can progress, and you can work towards accomplishing your financial goals. Listed below are some tips on what to keep in mind while you are making your spending plan.

1. Make money rules together
• Both you and the other person in the relationship need to agree on how you are going to spend your money. If one person comes up with a spending plan alone, the other person may not agree to it and therefore will not follow through with the plan. To be able to stay motivated to stick to a spending plan, each person needs to be involved in the planning process.

2. Be willing to compromise
• Both of you need to be willing to make compromises. For example, one person may not like the idea of spending money on eating out, but the other person may spend more money eating out than getting groceries. When sitting down together, you can figure out the perfect mix of eating out and buying groceries that works for both of you.

3. Express each of your perspectives about money
• Each person in the relationship needs to be honest in how they spend money and the reasoning behind their spending habits. Putting it out on the table for the other person to understand will make it easier to find a compromise in your spending plan and help the process.

4. Save for emergencies
• Each person should be putting money aside for emergencies. If you don’t save for emergencies, such as an unexpected car repair, it may cramp your other finances. By putting an emergency fund into your spending plan, you can be more prepared for unexpected expenses that may arise. The rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund.

5. Seek outside help
• If you are struggling on how you should make a spending plan and are unsure if it will work, seek outside help. At Powercat Financial Counseling, we offer free, confidential counseling sessions for K-State students. Go to our website at www.ksu.edu/pfc and make an appointment if you want help in making a spending plan.

**For a spending plan worksheet, go to www.ksu.edu/pfc/budgeting/. On that page, click on spending plan worksheet and begin the process of creating your spending plan. **

Brooklyn Hnizdil
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling


Tips for Tax Time

It’s tax time again, folks! Now I know that nobody likes to deal with what could be a complicated and confusing process of filing your income taxes, but it may be required of you by the government, and even if you aren’t required to file, you may be entitled to a refund! And who doesn’t want to get money back? If you had any earned income during 2013 and had tax withheld from your paycheck, then it is worthwhile to file your taxes. You may have a refund coming your way if you do! Here are some helpful tips to help you get going on your taxes.

First off, start early! Even though filing isn’t due until April 15th, getting a head start may keep you from running into problems later. The closer it gets to due date, the more difficult it will be to get help and advice from a tax professional if you get into a bind. Also, starting early can help budget the time it will take to finish filing. It shouldn’t take too long to fill out the forms for a college student that has only one job, but you don’t want to procrastinate and not give yourself the time to properly fill out the forms. Even if you haven’t received your W-2s yet, you can still get started (note: a W-2 is tax form that shows the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck for the year and is used to file your federal and state taxes). Your final pay stub will have pertinent tax information, such as your income and what was withheld. Another form that’s already available to you that you shouldn’t forget is your 1098-T. The 1098-T is the Tuition Statement. K-State has made these available to all students. The 1098-T can be accessed in iSIS, under the Finances section of the iSIS Student Center. The 1098-T reports the amount of qualified education expenses paid by the student during the year. These expenses are used to calculate what tax credits are available to the student for the year. Below is a link to a video provided by TurboTax that has some good information in regards to the 1098-T.


It’s important to know your filing status, where you need to file, and know what you are qualified to deduct or get a tax credit for. It’s important to talk to your parents and find out what your filing status is. If your parents provided more than half of your support for the year, they are entitled to claim you as a dependent, meaning they would be the ones who can take advantage of education-related tax benefits.
Another thing to consider is where you need to file. Aside from needing to file with the federal government, you will need to file with all states in which you worked. That means, for example, that if you are an out of state student, and you worked here in Kansas during the school year, but also worked during the summer back home, you may be required to file taxes in both states. You can file a Kansas tax return online for free at www.ksrevenue.org. You’ll need to check each state’s website for specific details relating to filing requirements for that state.

It’s always a good idea to find out if you qualify for some deductions to your taxable income or if you qualify for some relief from your taxes owed through tax credits. For students, it’s a good idea to look at that 1098-T mentioned earlier. It will have information on what tuition and fees you paid this year that can be deducted from your taxable income for the year. You can also deduct a portion of the student loan interest you paid during the year. The Student Loan Interest Deduction is available to recent grads who have started paying back loans and to current students who have put in some early payments that apply to paying down some of that loan interest already accrued. Credits are another good way to reduce your taxes. It’s a smart move if you look in to seeing if you or your parents would be eligible for some education-related tax credits. Three of the main credits offered are the Hope Scholarship Credit, American Opportunity Credit, and the Lifetime Learning Credit. The link below gives some additional information on some of these benefits. For more information you can always visit the IRS website as well.



Here is a list of some free Tax Preparation Services that may be helpful to you:

VITA – a free tax service available at the Manhattan Public Library. They prepare simple IRS 1040 tax returns and Kansas returns only. Maximum Household income is $52,000. To set up an appointment call 785-565-6426 or email vitataxes@gmail.com. For further information, contact Jennifer Wilson at the Riley County Extension Office at 785-537-6350.

www.irs.gov – FreeFile oline of federal taxes if income is less than $57,000

www.ksrevenue.org – free online filing for Kansas state taxes

Glacier Tax Prep for international students. Link available at www.k-state.edu/isss


Other Sources:



Nathan Simonsson
Peer Financial Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling


U.S. education secretary spotlights Powercat Financial Counseling as a program to emulate

By Communications and Marketing

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spotlighted Kansas State University’s Powercat Financial Counseling as a financial literacy program to emulate during his address Dec. 4 to more than 6,000 financial aid professionals attending the 2013 Federal Student Aid Training Conference at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.

Powercat Financial Counseling is directed by Jodi Kaus, who spoke on a panel at the conference on “How Schools Educate Their Students About Financial Literacy.”

Duncan outlined the Obama administration’s efforts to address rising college costs and make college more affordable for American families, including the administration’s proposal to create a college ratings system that would better inform students and encourage institutions to improve. He indicated the president proposed an ambitious plan for transforming financial aid in America.

“In short, we envision a world with a much higher level of financial literacy about what it takes to complete college and the benefits and restrictions of student aid,” Duncan said. “Improving financial literacy should be an institutional goal, driven in significant measure by financial aid administrators, in partnership with other leaders in higher education.”

With greater transparency and increased financial literacy as key components of Obama’s plan, Duncan indicated innovative financial aid leaders were already showing the way to improving financial literacy, increasing transparency, boosting retention and college completion, and strengthening loan counseling. He indicated best ideas should be taken to scale.

“I would like to see more institutions emulating financial literacy programs like Kansas State’s Powercat Financial Counseling program and Ohio State’s Scarlet and Gray Financial Program,” Duncan said. “At Kansas State, the goal is for students to meet with Powercat Financial Counseling every semester to create and review their college financial plan, just as they would meet with an academic advisor to work on their academic plan. At both Kansas State and Ohio State, these programs rely in part on peer educators, students from financial-related majors who spend a semester training to advise students and who serve as financial coaches. At a meeting with a group of college students just last week, I heard how much they appreciated peer mentoring and support programs.”

Duncan further highlighted the efforts of Powercat Financial Counseling by indicating that since Kansas State began its program in August 2009, more than 1,200 students have received individual financial counseling, nearly 16,000 students and parents have received group financial education, and 60 students have served as peer financial educators

“That is campuswide change, not a case-by-case change,” Duncan said.

Complete text can be found online.

You may learn more about Kansas State’s Powercat Financial Counseling program at www.k-state.edu/pfc.


Preparing for Next Semester

With finals right around the corner and winter break fast approaching, you may not even want to think about next semester yet.  However, it can save money to get ready for it sooner rather than later and you won’t have to worry about it when returning to campus.

There are many things you’ll need to consider when thinking about next semester including budgeting, financial aid, school supplies, textbooks, class registration, and class drop dates.


The first thing to do when preparing for next semester is to determine a budget.  A budget can help keep you on track and set financial goals, such as saving up for spring break.  It can help you know what spending money you have available and where you can work on spending less (and can even help you determine some New Year’s resolutions).

Financial Aid

Part of the budgeting process may involve student loans, scholarships, grants, and fellowships.  Look back over this past semester and see how much financial aid you accepted and determine if it was just enough or if you could have gotten by with less.  This involves taking a hard look at your spending over the past semester and seeing if there were times you could have saved money.  If you could have gotten by with less, then contact the financial aid office (http://www.k-state.edu/sfa/) to ask them to reduce the disbursement for next semester.  This will not only help you learn to control spending, but will also save you money in student loans and interest costs down the road.

School Supplies

School supplies can be relatively inexpensive by themselves, but over time, the total cost accumulates to a big amount.  Some ways to save money on school supplies are:

  • Make a list of what you need and stick to it.  It can be tempting to want to buy some supplies that could be useful, but you may not use them or need them when it comes time.
  • Buy in bulk.  If you know you will be using a certain supply frequently, it will save money to buy the large quantity that’s cheaper per unit.  For example, if you know you’ll be printing a lot of articles, contemplate buying the multiple pack of ink cartridges or the carton of paper instead of a ream each time you run out.  Costco can be a good place to look for bulk supplies
  • Look for coupons.  Many stores have coupons or weekly ads available on their sites and may advertise for upcoming sales.  Before setting out to shop, make sure to look for coupons or sales by going to the stores’ websites. Staples also has a 20-25% off brown bag sale for back-to-school times, so keep on the lookout for when that will be!
  • Think about holiday sales.  Some stores also have sales on holidays such as Boxing Day (December 26th) that can save you money.
  • Look around for what you may already have.  It can be easy to lose pens, pencils, highlighters, etc. Before going out and buying new supplies, scour your room for these missing items.


College textbooks can be a major drain to the bank account.  You can learn ways to save money on them by implementing these few tips.

Book requirements can be found at http://courses.k-state.edu/.  You can click course schedules, then select the year, select course schedule and finally select the department (which are arranged by colleges).  There’s a book icon you can click that will list the required, recommended, and optional books.  The direct link for next semesters’ books is http://courses.k-state.edu/spring2014/schedule.html.

Consider buying used instead of new.  Used books range from like-new to acceptable and are offered at a significantly reduced price.  Used books are sold by bookstores, major companies such as Amazon, and private sellers such as students who took the course previously.  You can compare used book prices at the following sites:

Consider renting textbooks instead of buying.  For some textbooks, you may only want to have the book for the course and won’t use it afterwards.  There are many sites, including Chegg and Amazon, that offer the option to rent the book for a month, a quarter, or a semester.  If you decide that you want to own the book after using it, you can pay the difference between the buy price and rent price and not have to return the book.  Beware when renting to return the book on time.  You may be charged late fees, an extra semester, or the cost of the book if you are late.

And finally, email your professors about buying international editions or previous versions.  Many textbook makers make a few changes and rerelease the book as a new version that can be charged at a higher price for those few changes.  Many times professors use the older version book anyway and would allow you to buy the old version as well.  This can shave a lot off the list price of the new version.  International versions typically have different covers, page numbers, and chapter orders than the United States versions, but contain the same information.  This can complicate reading assignments when you’re given the page numbers or chapter names, but can cut costs sometimes up to 50-75%.  For both of these options, make sure to ask your professors before making the purchases.

For more information on saving money on textbooks, you can visit http://lifehacker.com/5613591/the-complete-guide-to-getting-cheap-textbooks.

Registration/Drop Dates

You probably are already registered for classes next semester.  However, since your tuition is calculated based on the courses you are enrolled in, if you are contemplating adding or dropping a course, it may be helpful to make the final decision sooner rather than late.  That way, you won’t have to deal the complexities of either paying extra for a class added or going through the process of getting a refund to your account for classes dropped.

It’s also important to know when the refund drop dates are for courses.  These dates can be found by going through the academic calendar at http://www.k-state.edu/cgi-bin/eventview/registrar/academic.  For the spring 2014 semester, the last day to drop a course, but still get 100% of the tuition costs back is February 10th.  After that, you will only get 50% of the tuition cost back.  The last day to get 50% of the cost back will be February 17th.  If you are contemplating dropping a course, try and make this decision before these dates in order to get back your tuition costs.

The academic calendar will also inform you about the last days to drop a course before receiving a W or a WF.


For other money saving tips throughout the semester, check out these sites:





Christyne Stephenson
Peer Financial Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling


Impact of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) on College Students

In addition to figuring out how to pay for tuition, books, and housing, college students need to be aware of the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, on their finances.

You’ve probably heard lots about this program, but there is still quite a bit of confusion and misunderstanding out there. The best way to approach this issue is to become informed about it. One reality is that the program will have a definite impact on health care insurance for students. One of the impacts is you will have more options to compare and contrast. You’ll need to figure out which option makes the most sense for you. One thing to know is that effective January 1, 2014 most people will need to have health insurance coverage that meets the requirement of the ACA, or pay a tax penalty.

If you are under 26 and your parents have health insurance that covers family members, the law allows you to stay on their plan in most cases. This is one very positive aspect of the ACA for young adults. We recommend that you check with your parents to see if this provision applies to you. If it does, staying on your parents’ plan might be the lowest cost option available to you. This coverage is available even if you are considered financially independent, and is available regardless if you are single or married. Costs for this coverage might go up, however, because many plans charge higher premiums when you add additional family members.

Check the provisions of your parents’ plan carefully if you are considering being covered by their plan. Some plans limit the physicians and other health care providers to those in their network. This is particularly true in the case of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs). If you attend school outside the community where your parents live, you might have to go to an out of network provider. This can result in less coverage or more expenses.

Another option to consider is the student health plan offered for students at KSU. In the past these plans had limits on their coverage. Limits on coverage is something that the ACA is addressing. According to Professor Roberta Riportella, Professor of Community Health at KSU, the KSU Student Health plan meets the requirement for coverage under the ACA. This could be a lower cost option for students that qualify for coverage. Check out the following website for info on this plan: https://www.uhcsr.com/SelfServiceSupport/Students/CollegeHome.aspx

A new feature of the ACA just now being rolled out is the online health insurance exchange. In this exchange you’ll be able to see the health insurance companies providing policies in your state. You’ll also be able to choose benefit packages ranging from basic coverage in the bronze plan to higher-level coverage in silver, gold, and platinum plans. You’ll pay more in premiums for the higher levels of coverage. You can access the health insurance exchange at the following link: https://www.healthcare.gov/

Professor Riportella has been very active in posting information to a blog that clears up a lot of the misinformation regarding the ACA. Her blog can be accessed here: https://blogs.ksre.ksu.edu/issuesinhealthreform/

Finally, Professor Riportella discusses the ACA and its impact on college students in the following archived recording from a session presented to students on November 5, 2013. If you missed her workshop you can check it out online. It would be worth your time to watch this informative session. The video at the beginning of her presentation covers a lot of the important info you need to know. Here is the link: http://www.k-state.edu/grad/students/workshops/aca.html

Rob Jones, M.A.Ed.
Peer Financial Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling

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