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Posted on September 4, 2014 at 6:00 am
When I was a college student, nearly 20 years ago, I was lucky to have enough financial aid to meet my needs and not leave me or my family teetering on bankruptcy upon graduation. Since that time, tuitions have skyrocketed—in some states by nearly 80% in the last ten years. Even a little bit of financial help can make a difference for students and their families. A penny saved is a penny not racking up student loan interest. Washington state students might be surprised by some of the ways to save a few of those pennies.
If you are a Washington state resident and student, you may qualify for the Basic Food Program and possibly other benefits, such as child care help or cash assistance. Requirements include that you are a student of higher education for at least half-time and either work 20 hours a week or participate in a state or federal work study program. Even if you receive financial aid, you might qualify for benefits. While the rules and requirements can be complicated, it’s worth checking eligibility and is easy to do so. Apply online at Washington Connection.
What if you’re a parent attending school? First of all, you are to be highly commended! Extremely challenging is probably an understatement. There are programs to help those students, too. Schools like Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College offer Early Start centers for enrolled students. Four-year schools often have child care centers, too. Be aware that rates vary greatly.
Some schools offer basic student health insurance and have health centers on campus. However, many of these plans do not meet the new Affordable Care Act standards. Many Washington state students likely qualify for Apple Health which is the new expanded Medicaid in Washington. If you earn less than $1,300 a month you probably qualify for free health insurance. Keep in mind, most financial aid is not considered income for this purpose. Apply for coverage at WashingtonHealthPlanFinder. (Or call your friendly SCLD Navigator at 509-893-8400.)
New students will learn quickly that their ID card is gold. That little card gets a student into the campus fitness facilities, provides discounts on campus, and often is a free pass for city transit. Additionally, a Student ID card can get discounts on all sorts of products and services including:
And more! There are whole websites devoted to listing available student discounts for magazine subscriptions, car insurance, local museums tickets, cell phone services, and fast food chains. And perhaps my favorite–Amazon Student, where students receive six months of free two-day shipping and a Prime membership for $49 a year. Where ever a student goes, whether in public or online, they should carry their ID and inquire about a student discount.
Something may be said about the character built by learning to live off of noodles as a broke and struggling student. But students should remember there are benefits, discounts, and savings waiting to be had. Something more powerful might be said about the student who finds them and saves some pennies for more important things—like paying back their student loans.