UISG creates guide to help students navigate being ‘not-rich’ at UI

The new ‘Guide to being not-rich at Iowa’ provides a collaborative space for students to share their money-saving tips.


Ryan Adams/The Daily Iowan

Photo Illustration by Ryan Adams

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

Budgeting in college can be a difficult task for many students, especially for students paying for their expenses. To help students navigate life with varying financial situations, the University of Iowa Student Government has created “Guide to Being Not Rich at Iowa” as a space for students to share tips and advice on how to save money as a student.

The guide is a collaborative Google document, that will remain open for students to make suggestions and revisions until the end of the semester.

According to results from the 2018 Student Experience in the Research University survey, which received a response from nearly 20 percent of undergraduates, many UI students report financial concerns.

“Across all students, just under half report being concerned or very concerned about paying for college,” the results said. Around 40 percent “report that they often or very often cut back on spending, and one-third report that they occasionally or more often cut back on meals due to financial reasons.”

The guide is modeled on a University of Michigan student-led project, which went viral last year. Similar guides exist at many other universities.

UISG Justice and Equity Director Alex Bare said the guide is designed to help students who are just getting by.

“Not everyone is here having the time of their lives, and not everyone is here with funding from their families — many people are here on their own dime,” Bare said. “That costs a lot, and it’s a lot of work. We all thought that this would be an idea for how students could easily find ways that they could navigate college, stay in college, and continue to stay healthy, be a good student, yet do that with limited economic resources.” 

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UISG Sen. Carolina Herrera said the guide is a display of support for low-income students.

“I was really surprised and shocked at how many people contributed to it,” Herrera said. “It just shows low-income students, we care, this a resource you have. This is from students, so it’s students supporting students, and I really like that idea. I’m low-income, and when you’re low-income, you don’t like talking about your economic situation. So it’s something you just hide, and I feel like this brings awareness for that.”

Bare said the guide has received a surprising number of responses.

“I’ve seen a lot of people — usually with student-government stuff, it’s our own friends — but this is people I don’t even know,” Bare said. “Faculty members have been emailing about it. It’s starting to spread, and I think once we get some more word out there, it’ll really take off.”

The guide includes 12 different categories offering tips on saving money in areas such as housing, transportation, and entertainment. The guide also includes tips on scholarships and financial aid as well as how to be economical and sustainable — which Herrera said is something contributors added.

“People think of sustainability as something that’s expensive,” Herrera said. “I feel like sustainability is something for everyone. Even if you’re low-income, there’s sustainable options that are even cheaper than nonsustainable options.”

UISG hopes to work with UI administrators in the future on financial-aid advice.

Colleen Scholer, the director of marketing and design for the Division of Student Life, said students can find UI resources for their specific situations.

“The Office of Student Financial Aid and Financial Literacy Services work with students to identify resources depending on their situation,” Scholer said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “There are also resources available across campus in specific departments for students in certain majors, such as students in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, may be eligible for emergency funds based on specific situations.”