Back 2 School

Posted August 11, 2011 in Feature Story

As the last month of summer heats up, most of us are cooling down and getting ready for that new school year. It’s time to retire that good ol’ surf board and put away the swimsuits and floaties. Time for new backpacks, new books, new classes and . . . new loans? With statewide budget cuts and tuition on the rise, this school year may prove to be a lot tougher on your wallet than your mind. While we can’t exactly lower your college fees, we’ve gathered all you need to know about cutting back in other ways. From transportation to shopping, here’s your guide to staying on budget while getting back to school:


Pay Your Way Through College


Inland Empire based scholarships

So you need money for school? Money can be had, particularly if you belong to a traditionally underrepresented minority, maintain a Type A personality or kick ass in one particular subject. The Inland Empire branch of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) offers two $1,000 “Rising Star” scholarships to prospective PR folks and journalists enrolled in an accredited Inland Empire college or university with at least a 3.0 GPA. If you’re Latino, high-achieving, heavily involved in your community but have a limited income, you’re in luck. The Inland Empire Scholarship Fund, which provided an average $1,455 to 145 students in 2010, accepts applications for the following school year beginning in November. For the poor community college student, the state of California still offers the Board of Governors Waiver (BOGW) to assist with enrollment fees during the fall and spring terms.


Will work for school

UCR Extension’s Volunteer Program is the adult equivalent of work study, only no actual money is involved. Adults who volunteer at least 20 hours receive the promise of enrolling in extension courses. What’s involved? You assist with on-site registration on the first day of classes by welcoming students, checking class rosters and helping out the head honcho with any technical or administrative issues that might arise before he/she begins instruction. The neat thing about this program is that you’re not limited to just one class per hour; you can volunteer for two or three classes simultaneously during the hour for twice or thrice the amount of credit. The downside is that a course can cost anywhere from 20 to 40 credits a piece, but at least you know your hard-earned “credits” are going towards a worthy endeavor.


I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday, for a student loan today

Of course, when all else fails, students can always fall back on student loans to fund their education. To qualify for low-interest Federal Student Loans, students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (a.k.a., FAFSA) to qualify. If parental income exceeds what the government can afford to pay, students always have the fall back of a private student loan which charges slightly higher interest rates and requires somewhat stellar credit ratings, meaning mommy and daddy might have to co-sign their livelihoods away. (Nancy Powell)


From Point A to Point B


Biking, walking or carpooling

Instead of buying a parking permit for a triple-digit price only to spend 30 minutes looking for parking and arriving late to class, be at ease students, try walking, biking, razoring, skateboarding or, heck, Heelys if you live near campus. If you want to save money on those expensive parking permits, park in a local neighborhood or find a shopping center close by that won’t nag or tow you. A 15-minute walk is better than a 30-minute drive around the lot with other aggravated students. And if you really want to save some dough, go for the old-fashioned carpool. Call up a friend or classmate and trade off being behind the wheel and paying for gas.


Public transportation

If you’re one of those I’d-never-dare-set-foot-on-a-bus type of person, well, time to swallow your pride before you swallow all your cash. As someone who once used public transportation, I will admit that it’s truly wonderful. If you have a long commute, Metrolink offers a 10 percent discount on fares. If you have a short commute, you’re in luck, RTA city buses offer GoPasses or U-Passes to students, which are free bus rides. That’s right, free!


Cheaper gas

If you barely have time to work with your hectic class schedule, have little dough in your pocket and, with gas prices so high, the thought of driving anywhere makes you cringe—behold the power of cheaper fuel prices for all Costco card holders! If you don’t have a magic Costco card and can’t borrow mom or dad’s, Vons also has cheap gas for members—and membership is free. If you’re one of those I-hate-signing-up-for-things-and-having-cards-in-my-wallet people, go to to see where you can pump cheap gas near your home. (Jessica Druck)




Save money while you grocery shop

I know you love your Quiznos, I know you love your Starbucks, but my dear students, these things add up! Buying a loaf of bread, your favorite cold cuts and sandwich fixings will be about the same price as one large sub, but this can last you all week. Same with a large bag of pretzels or chips; one big bag will be around the price of one little bag in the vending machine. And if you’re health conscious, Trader Joe’s has a great selection of low priced healthy snacks, plus sandwiches, wraps and salads. You can also save money by becoming a member of your local supermarket and by shopping on Wednesdays—the day with the best deals and selections. Also buy in bulk judiciously; you will get burnt out on Top Ramen faster than you think—forcing you to spend more money on dining out. Be sure to look into your cafeteria’s amenities as well, most supply microwaves for students!


Reuse, replenish, rehydrate

Like most college students, you’re probably always on the run, and buying expensive coffees—maybe more than one—water bottles, sodas and Gatorades that all add up. One thing you can do to alleviate costs is bring your own drinks. Buy a reusable water bottle or canteen, Walmart sells them starting at $9, and fill ’em up before you leave for class. Most hold up to 17 ounces! If you’re a coffee lover, try Folgers Instant Coffee Singles; just add hot water for instant coffee. And if you’re missing that sweet flavor when that afternoon slump hits, spruce up your H2O with Crystal Light Packets, and fan yourself with all those extra dollars you’re saving.


Eating out

So, you’re sick of eating the sandwiches I told you to make and you have a few bucks left over because you’re saving money on gas prices? It’s understandable that you want to treat yourself to something a little fancier than Wonder Bread. Most colleges have good restaurants near them and usually have student nights, happy hours and great deals. Check your college newspaper (or this one—sheesh!) often for deals and discounts for nearby dining and be sure to look into those little hole-in-the-wall places you normally pass up. Also type in your zip code for deals on restaurants near you. (Jessica Druck)


Geek Gear



In theory, any e-reader would do; but as far as selection, compatibility and features goes, the Kindle is second to none. You’re going to be reading a lot at school, so it’s sensible to make the physical load as light as possible. The Kindle is especially useful if you are working with any kind of primary source materials in PDF format: just load them onto the kindle and you can do research anywhere. You can also throw your lecture notes, syllabi and other materials on there for easy transport. It can’t fully replace the satisfaction you get from the look and the feel of a physical book, but the Kindle can certainly help ease your lower back problems.



Yes, you can get (or build) a PC for half the price. Yes, you can get a netbook for even less. But if you walk around college campuses today, you’re going to witness a sea of Macbooks. The reason that all of these kids can afford Macs—aside from that trust-fund portion of the population you’ll spend your years being alternately jealous of and angry at—is student loans. Macbooks are sleek and well designed—aesthetically, they’re unmatched. But they’re also remarkably powerful and able to nimbly execute your class projects. You’ll have the upper-hand, creatively speaking.


USB Drive

Pick one, any one. There are better brands and there are worse brands, but overall these thumb-drives are getting cheaper and bigger every year. You can get them for about a dollar per gigabyte these days. You’re going to need a fast and easy way to get your files from one computer to another; whether you want to share your work on a group project with your partner or share . . . other things, it’s up to you. Stop being unnecessarily lazy and emailing yourself all of your important documents and projects, just get yourself a USB, maybe one with a key-ring so you don’t lose it or wash it. (Funny story, though: I washed my USB drive and it still works. Flash memory, sheesh!) You can even buy custom designed ones these days that’ll run up the price a bit, but will assure everyone around you that you’re serious about two things: portable memory and Star Wars. (Kevin Longrie)


Lookin‘ Good


If you prefer the simple jeans and T-shirt look, check out JCPenney. The store offer graphic tees and classy cardigans ranging from $7 to $25. Plus, the jean selection is great! Of course, in-stock are skinnies and jeggings, but there are also boot cut, flare and straight; their website ( allows you to break things down based on desired style and preferred length, making the shopping experience incredibly easy. Also on the website: Decree jeans starting at 40 percent off. Also check out Pac Sun, which claims to represent the comfy California lifestyle and is offering 50 percent off every second T-shirt you buy. And for jeans: 30 percent off every third pair for women and 40 percent off every third pair for men. With tuition on the rise, any deal is a good one!



Love skinny jeans and off-the-shoulder tops? Not happy with unadorned and unembellished style? Then check out This website offers a direct line to all kinds of sales and trendy/flashy styles that you might not be able to find at your local store. And if that isn’t good enough, eBay has a section specifically for Forever 21 fashions as well as deals on other fairly fashionable items. Just be willing to fight to the death in those crazy bidding wars! For shoes, you can’t go wrong with Payless. The chain store is having one of its famous BOGO sales just in time for school. That’s “Buy One Get One free” for those of you who do not stay up to date with your shopping acronyms. You can find just about anything, and most cities have at least two or three stores located within their limits.



Some of you may walk through those hallowed halls of learning and choose to make a fashion statement that goes beyond the trendy or casual. You may prefer hardcore rocker or bohemian goddess, but you need deals too! Hot Topic is currently offering a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale on all T-shirts as well as $5 off backpacks, messenger bags and laptop cases. The company website has an entire section specifically for deals separate from its clearance items and a place for back to school style. H&M offers tunics and ponchos under $25 that look great with jeans and feather accessories—also available at the store. You can breeze into lecture halls as the epitome of your personal style. (Janet Martin)


Clip Those Coupons

Keeping up on the news

The dinky little publication known as the school newspaper, believe it or not, includes quite a bit more than the requisite campus curiosities, least of which are valuable coupons conspicuously hidden in a corner or two. You can find two-for-one values, percentage-off deals and more for food venues close to campus. Not that we indulge in shameless promotion, but check out any issue of the Weekly and you’re bound to find more food, nightlife and shopping deals . . . and all in the time it takes to walk to the local coffee shop just to grab the paper.


Networking for discounts

Check out a restaurant you’re interested in on Yelp and you’ll find the occasional discount coupon on the page. Subscribe to your favorite shop’s Twitter, Facebook or RSS feeds and get “Friends and Family” type discount coupons for clothing, groceries and bath products. Groupon offers great discounts on fine dining and the good life, but be careful and read the fine print before executing your selections as exclusions could apply. CollegeBudget, a new website that launched just last week, has kicked off its debut with a Back-to-School Palooza with a star-studded line up of over 100 merchants providing featuring discounts of 50 percent or more off services to starving students in addition to the traditional dollars off on textbooks. Speaking of textbooks, do your homework by shopping AbeBooks, or even Paperbackswap or utilize the reserves at the school library for free.


Your tuition dollars at work

Sometimes the fee hikes aren’t necessarily the fault of your friendly neighborhood governor, but of the school itself, in things like building a bigger and better student center for the welfare of Joe Student. Just in case you didn’t know, these improved student centers actually try to offer a return on investment for bilking you out of your hard-fought fee hikes . . . like discounts for movie theater tickets, amusement parks, museums and concert tickets. Gym memberships . . . you got it. Wellness, definitely. Also, look towards student clubs and activities for the down-low on specialty events. Chances are, membership has its privileges. (Nancy Powell)


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