Financial Services

Financial Resources

As we navigate through this challenging time of virtual learning and social distancing, the finances of many individuals are being affected. Here are some resources to assist on your journey towards financial wellness during this unprecedented time.

CARES Act. Although many college students were not eligible for the stimulus checks distributed in April 2020, the CARES Act did provide funds to UW-Whitewater for students who endured a financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19. The Federal Emergency Relief Grant was available to students; however, the monies have been fully distributed. For questions related to the Federal Emergency Relief Grant, contact the Financial Aid Office at

Federal Student Loans.  From March 13, 2020 until January 31,2022, 0% interest is being assessed to most federal student loans. In addition, if you are in repayment, your student loans have been placed on administrative forbearance (temporary suspension) until January 31, 2022, but you can still make a payment if you so choose. For more information on Federal Student Loans and COVID-19, visit Federal Student Aid.

FAFSA & Financial Aid. Many families are experiencing reduced income as a result of COVID-19 and wondering if they should update their FAFSA application. According to the Federal Student Aid site, the 2020-21 FAFSA application requests 2018 income tax records. For many, 2018 income does not reflect their current situation. They suggest contacting individual schools for which you are applying to explain and document the change in income. Click here for more information on the FAFSA application. 

Refunds and Excess Monies. Here are some financial activities to consider if you have extra funds:

  • Continue to pay your bills - Pay your cell phone, rent, utilities, and more each month as normal.
  • Reduce your credit card debt - Most student credit cards have a higher interest rate. If you are carrying a balance on your credit card and have extra funds, consider paying down on this debt.
  • Pay down student debt - If you incurred student loans during this academic year, the loan most likely was used to pay for your education and living expenses. Consider using any extra monies due to university refunds like housing, meal plans, parking, weight room and more to make a student loan payment and reduce the amount of debt you owe. Visit Federal Student Aid to identify your loan servicer and to manage your loans.
  • Savings - An emergency fund savings helps students prepare for unexpected expenses in the future without worrying about being unprepared for unexpected expenses. Consider taking your excess funds and saving a portion (or all) for the future.

Budgeting allows you to create a spending plan for your money, and it ensures you will have enough money for the things you need and the things that are important to you. Budgeting is the most basic and effective tool for managing your money. Building a budget forces you to take a closer look at your spending habits and prioritize your expenses.

Basic Steps to Creating a Budget:
1. Identify all income sources.
2. Determine monthly expenses.
3. Determine difference between income and expenses.
4. Review budget while adjusting to fit financial goals.
5. Monitor and track your expenses.

Budget Worksheet - download (xls)
Tracking Expenses (pdf)

Credit is receiving something of value now and promising to pay back the amount you spent, plus a finance or interest charge, at a later date. Revolving credit can be used repeatedly for purchases that will be paid monthly. Credit cards are the most common type of revolving credit. Installment loans require consumers to follow a regular payment schedule, usually monthly, that includes interest, until the principal is paid off. Mortgages and car loans are common types of installment loans.

Your FICO credit score is a number, ranging from 300-850, that is generated to predict the likelihood and risk of paying off credit. A higher number can be beneficial in your future with lower interest rates, higher limits, and overall approval for loans and credit cards. Credit scores can be checked by financial institutions, creditors, employers, landlords, utility companies, and insurance companies.

FICO Credit Score Breakdown:

FICO Credit Score Breakdown

  • Payment History (35%). Make consistent and on-time payments to revolving credit and loans.
  • Amounts Owed (30%). Maintain a low percentage of credit being used and keep credit card balances low.
  • Credit Length (15%). Longer credit history has more data to demonstrate payment history.
  • Types of Credit (10%). A mix of credit (accounts, credit cards, and loans) is taken into consideration to determine credit score.
  • New Credit (10%). Avoid opening several new credit accounts in a short period for this may signify greater risk.

Individuals are encouraged to view their credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Transunion, Equifax, and Experian), for free, each year at

College is expensive, and for many families, paying for college can be challenging. Use the UW-Whitewater Cost Estimator to obtain a semester estimate on tuition, housing, and meals based on current year expenses.

According to a national study conducted by the Institute of College Access and Success, the current average student loan burden for graduates in Wisconsin is now $30,059, while the national average is slightly higher at $37,172.

How the Average Family Pays for College

Families are utilizing many income sources to pay college expenses, and a 'who's paying for what' conversation might prove beneficial between students and parents.

  • Grants & Scholarships (35%). Scholarships and grants are monetary gifts that do not need to be repaid, and are the largest source of income for students. Grants are generally need-based, whereas scholarships are often merit-based. Grants and scholarships can come from schools, governments, and other public and private organizations. Students are encouraged to complete their FAFSA each year and to utilize the Scholarship resources provided to UW-Whitewater students through the Financial Aid Office.
  • Loans (27%). On average, students and parents took out loans to cover 27% of college costs.  
    • Student loans:  Students (Undergraduates and Graduates) can borrow from the Federal Student Loan program. For those who need more money than offered by the federal government, many turn to private lenders at financial institutions. Private loans generally have higher interest rates, are based on credit, and may need a parent cosigner.
    • Parent loans:  Parents can borrow from the Federal Parent PLUS Loan program. The PLUS loan (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) allows parents to borrow money to supplement their dependent student's financial aid package. Parents, not students, are financially responsible for this type of loan. In addition, parents have the option to apply to financial institutions for private loans.
  • Parents (23%). Parents utilized their own income and savings to cover about 23% of the average cost of college. Many surveyed had saved using a college savings plan, an investment fund, or savings account.
  • Students (11%). Students had enough income and savings to cover about 11% of college costs. Many students work while in school to pay for their college expenses.
  • Relatives & Friends (4%). A small percentage of the average family included a generous relative or friend that contributed to the overall college expenses.  

Banking Word Cloud Graphic

Now that you are off to college with financial independence, you may want to utilize various banking accounts and services offered through financial institutions (most common are commercial banks and credit unions). You may need to make payments and/or receive funds to manage your day-to-day cash flow.

  • Checking accounts. Checking accounts allow you to easily access your money by withdrawing cash, writing checks, or using a debit card.  These accounts are perfect for everyday spending.  When applying for your first checking account, be sure to inquire about the account features. Find out about any fees, overdraft protection, service charges, and interest earning potential for your account.
  • Savings account. A savings account is a place where you can store your money safely while earning interest. Some individuals open multiple savings accounts, each with a different focus like vacations, holiday spending, or emergency funds. 
  • Online banking. Sometimes referred to as internet banking, online banking allows you to complete financial transactions using the internet. Advantages of banking online include convenience, speed, and efficiency, while disadvantages are a reliance to safe and secure internet connections and possible data hacking.

ID Theft

Identity theft is the most common type of fraud, and college students are no exception. College students are particularly susceptible to identity theft because they live in close proximity to one another, and they do not take enough precautions to protect themselves.

  • Securely store personal documents. Keep all items with sensitive information in a safe place. This includes credit cards, driver's license, and anything that may contain your social security number.
  • Strengthen passwords and utilize PINs. When creating passwords and PINs, be sure to use strong passwords (utilize symbols, letters, numbers, and capitals). Keep passwords in a secure location, not on a device.
  • Watch for scams. Scams try to trick students into giving personal information in hopes of stealing their identity. It's also important not to share too much personal information on social media.
  • Don't give out Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. Your Social Security number should only be shared when absolutely necessary. Be careful when mailing personal information, as it could be stolen. Be sure URLs contain a "https", where the 's' stands for 'secure', when sending personal information over the Internet.
  • Check your credit once a year. This is one of the best ways to catch instances of identity theft. You have the right to check your credit report once each year at
  • Limit use of public WiFi. Data thieves use public hotspots to steal personal information. Avoid shopping and logging into any banking or credit accounts while on a public connection.

Suspicious clues that your identity may have been stolen:

  • Bills stop coming in the mail
  • There are withdrawals from your bank account that are unexplainable
  • Credit report contains unfamiliar accounts and/or charges
  • IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name
  • Debt collectors call you for debts that are not yours
  • Medical bills appear for services you did not utilize

If you suspect ID theft, report to and work with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create a personal recovery plan.

Investing is placing your money into a type of investment with the overall goal of gaining value over a length of time.

Why Invest?  

  1. Grow your money over the long term
  2. Save for retirement
  3. Reach financial goals

A Tale of Two Investors

Saver and Spender are friends from college, and learned from their families the importance of saving for the future. During college, Saver started to invest money after working a part-time job. 

Saver placed money into an investment fund earning an average of 10%. Due to life events, Saver stopped saving at the age of 33. Saver invested a total of $24,000 over 12 years.  

Spender decided to spend discretionary income from a new career on a brand new car, travel, recreation, and entertainment. At age 34, Spender decided to start thinking about retirement and invested $2000 for the next 32 years, earning an average of 10%. Spender invested a total of $64,000 over 32 years.

Who will end up with more money by retirement? Saver had accumulated $550,804 more than Spender by the age of 65. Key factors to increasing the value of investments is to save early and utilize compounding interest!

                 Spender Graphic                              Saver Table

Common Retirement Funds:

  • 401(k). A tax-deferred retirement plan that allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars from your paycheck to save for retirement. The main advantage of a 401(k) is the employer match up to a certain amount.
  • 403(b). Similar to a 401(k), but for nonprofit companies such as school districts, religious groups, and governmental organizations.
  • Traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account). A retirement account which allows individuals to place pre-tax income towards investments, and the dividend income is paid when withdrawn after age 59 1/2.
  • Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account). A retirement account which allows individuals to place after-tax income towards investments, and the earnings can be withdrawn tax-free after age 59 1/2.


Estimating cost or savings can be beneficial when planning and managing your finances. Use these calculators to find estimated answers to your financial questions.

Cost of Attending UW-Whitewater.  Whether an undergraduate or graduate student, estimate your cost of attending UW-Whitewater.

Auto Loan Payment. Determine your estimated monthly auto loan payment.

Compounding Interest. Calculate savings account interest.

Living On or Off Campus. Determine whether living on or off campus is better for your lifestyle and budget.

Retirement Planner. Shows when you can expect to retire, and if you are saving enough.

Salary Paycheck. Calculate your net pay (take-home pay) by entering information regarding current or future salary and benefits.

Student Loans. Estimate the size of your monthly loan payment and the annual salary required to manage the loans without too much difficulty.

Student Loan Repayment. Estimate your student loan payment upon leaving college or dropping below 1/2 time status.