A Tale of Two Wallets

By Alin Boughousi

Sandra Rodriguez, a 24-year-old CSUN alumna who transferred from both LA Mission and Pierce Colleges, didn't need to worry about school costs due to financial support from her parents. But for 23-year-old CSUN sociology student, Geovanna Lucia Rodriguez, another transfer student from Glendale Community College, tuition has been a struggle.


CSUN students and other students deal with some form of income inequality. When it comes to financial aid not being awarded and other problems. Financial aid expert develops into what factors in with the whole thing. CSUN students provide tips and strategies to help budget money.  

CSUN financial aid counselor Courtney Newman describes the reason for the gap when it comes to income inequality.

“The way they award the financial aid is through the federal government who calculates the estimated family contribution,” Newman said. “The lower the amount the more financial aid the student receives.”  

The EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) is rated on a scale from zero to 99,999. According to Newman, if the EFC is lower students can receive more financial aid. Assuming that a student’s parent has a lower income, they would receive more financial aid from the government’s reserve fund while a student from a higher-income family would receive less money. Newman explains that income is not the only component factored into the distribution.


“The number of students in your household, number of people in your household and if your parents receive unemployment a lot of factors come into play,” said Newman.

However, CSUN students have a different perception on finance management. According to Sandra, her college tuition and expenses totaled to more than $19,000. Though she worked a part-time job to help with the costs, the minimum wage salary could not make ends meet. Even with a small scholarship of  $700 from the university, it did little for her expenses.

“My parents thankfully prepped some funds before I went off to college to help cover expenses, which is why I went to community college first, then to university,” said Sandra. “FAFSA said that my family was making enough money, and I was offered loans only but didn't accept them.”  

Ever since she enrolled at CSUN, Geovanna works to pay for expenses at home such as food and drinking water. However, her father helps cover costs with her books and gas she uses in her commute to campus.    

“I had to figure out a way to pay for my own tuition for the fall of 2016 when I transferred here,” said Geovanna.

Both Sandra and Geovanna described their biggest expenses when it came to university life.

Their common expenses were parking and gas as struggles, according to Sandra and Geovanna.

The two women provided tips on how to manage finances better in order to survive university life. Sandra talks about the resources that aided in her budgeting.

“Most definitely make a budget for yourself and make sure whatever you're purchasing is a something you need, not want. Use an app like Mint to get an idea of your spending and figure out where to limit your spending. For example, you might notice you're spending a lot at the theater or Starbucks, try lowering your spending towards that want,” said Sandra. “Set money aside in your savings account and don't get money from it until you absolutely need it, not want it.”

On the other hand, Geovanna gave her own advice by sharing the money-saving methods she used in order to maintain her budget for college expenses.

“Since I am never home, I buy cases of water bottles and a box of snacks in my trunk that help save me some money,” said Geovanna. “We also bought a coffee machine at home so I do not spend a lot of money on coffee when I get to campus.”

Sandra currently works at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in guest services. Geovanna continues her education at CSUN while she maintains her part-time job.


Alin Boughousi