College decisions impact financial future

This was originally published on Monday, September 11, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Many college students do not realize that their financial performance in college will impact them long after they graduate. Decisions they make on using their credit cards, financial aid, and over spending can impact their job search, their credit score, and their ability to payback what they borrowed.

Getting a good financial start out of college will ease the stress of the transition and open many more opportunities.

Failing classes. For many years your child has had a structured learning environment. They go to school and follow a strict schedule. After school, parents enforce homework and studying times.

College is very different from what they have been accustomed. Many professors don’t expect students to be in class every session and depending on their course load they may have a lot of time that they may consider free. Socializing is also a big part of the college experience. This new freedom could lead to academic troubles and financial troubles.

Retaking a class is expensive and could prolong their time in college. If it becomes a trend, they may be put on academic probation or worse, expelled. There may be fees associated with failing a class and loss of scholarships and/or grants. Being accepted by another college will become difficult. Student loans still must be paid off even though they are not in college.

Scholarship and grants. Being a student in college doesn’t mean they cannot continue to look for other scholarships and grants. Most believe that scholarships and grants are just for high school seniors going into college. In fact, there are many scholarship and grants that are targeted to students who are currently in college.

Have them speak with their academic adviser or counselor about these opportunities. They can also do some research online. Even if the amount is small or pays for certain expenses such as books, these opportunities can be a huge help. There is no rule to how many scholarships or grants you receive.

The more assistance you get the less you will have to pay or borrow.

Inappropriate use of assistance. Most scholarships or grants are paid directly to the school. But some are not and many student loans are paid directly to the student. This is very tempting to use unwisely. This money should not be used to fund a spring break trip.

Many students do not understand that paying for these loans right out of college is difficult. Most college students won’t be earning six-figure salaries at their first job; many of us don’t reach that level of income during our careers.

Large student loans. College tuition has been on the rise for years and it does not look like it will be leveling off any time soon. Many parents can no longer afford college tuition, living expenses, books and other incurred financial education related expenses.

Student loans are becoming a more popular way to fund higher education with the students being solely responsible. With that in mind, students should consider the cost of their education. Choosing a more affordable college in an area with lower living costs will certainly lower their debt. Be sure to understand the terms of the loan be for accepting it.

Even though your child is still in college, advise them to make monthly payments to keep the accrued interest from growing too large. The sooner they pay on the loan the better.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at


Resources exist for adults to go back to school

This was originally published on Monday, February 23, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: I am a 43-year old single mom of two. I have worked hard to send my children through private school and my oldest through college. My youngest child will graduate this year and wants to start college in the fall. I have put my college dreams on hold to raise my children, but now I would like to go back and get my degree. Are there financial aid programs for adults wanting to go back to school?

Answer: I want to start off by applauding you. You certainly have worked hard to make your kids’ futures brighter. There are resources out there that are available to assist you.

Free Job Training

The Department of Labor operates the One Stop Career Center. Depending on your current job status and the industry you work, you may be able to receive free job training. The One Stop Career Center offers low-cost and some free courses in various studies. To learn more, go to the One Stop Career Center website at

Tax Breaks

Although a tax break does not directly pay for college, it could help students that qualify by lowering the student’s taxes. There are two tax breaks that are available.

• The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for students who go to school part-time and are not necessarily enrolled in a degree-granting program.

• The American Opportunity Credit is for students enrolled full time in a program that leads to a degree or a certificate.

To verify if you qualify and the amount you can claim, go to the Internal Revenue Service’s web site at

Employer’s Assistance

Check with your human resources department if your employer offers programs that can help offset the cost of tuition. Some employers will cover the cost of tuition and require pay back in service over a specific period of time. Be sure to understand the policy. Depending on the program, you may have to consider the money as extra income.

GI Bill

If you have served on active duty for at least ninety days since September 10, 2001, you may be eligible for tuition assistance, books and supply costs, and possibly a housing stipend. In some cases, your GI Bill benefits can be transferred to your dependents.


As with recent graduates, adults, too, can qualify for federal grants. The federal government offers two grants for adults who wish to return to school:

• Federal Pell Grant is determined by financial need and can be used for part-time and full-time students.

• The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is for adult students who are returning to school to further their education. It can be used in conjunction with the Pell Grant to help pay for the total of tuition.

Applicants must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Student Loans

Adult students have some of the same resources when it comes to getting loans for their education. Loans can be secured by private or federal agencies. The Direct PLUS Loan is a federal loan that graduate students and parents of children under the age of 24 can use to assist paying for college. Go to for information about the loan program.

Financial aid for adults who are returning to school are out there, it just takes some digging. Go online.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at