Published: Aug. 13, 2008

Experts give tips on financial aid, campus safety and more for back-to-school stories

Contact(s): Pam Jahnke Media Communications office: (517) 432-0304 cell: (517) 944-5252, Jennifer Orlando Media Communications office: (517) 353-4355 cell: (517) 980-0076

EAST LANSING, Mich. — With the beginning of fall semester just around the corner, here are some story ideas – ranging from financial aid to campus safety to heath issues – that Michigan State University experts can provide insightful information.

College Insider
There’s a new way to get the inside scoop on the college application process thanks to Matthew Diemer, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education. Called the College Insider, the online guide was completed in April. “It was intended for students in Michigan who are underrepresented in college applications and attendance,” said Diemer, who wrote the guide with a graduate student. “There are academically qualified students in this state who aren’t applying for college.” College Insider is a free resource that provides information that high school guidance counselors may not have had time to address, Diemer said. The Web site covers the academic, financial and social aspects of applying to college, provides downloadable worksheets and guides and gives advice for everyone involved with the process. For a look at College Insider, visit Contact: Matthew Diemer, Counseling: (517) 355-6684,

Internet addiction
Checking your Facebook profile or playing games on your computer doesn’t seem like it can turn into an addiction, but it has for some college students. According to the 2008 National College Health Association numbers, 20 percent of MSU students and 23 percent of males reported that playing computer games or using the Internet has had a negative effect on their academics – that’s up from 18.6 percent in 2006. “I tell students to set some limits and allow yourself to meet people outside of the virtual world,” said Dennis Martell, coordinator of health education at Olin Health Center. “Life can be viewed in virtual time, but it can only be experienced in real time.” For more advice dealing with the health, social and academic concerns of college, listen to Martell’s podcast at Contact: Dennis Martell, Olin Health Center: (517) 432-1031,


Paying for college: ‘The money talk’

Determining who will cover college expenses and how an education at MSU will be paid for can be a tense conversation between a parent and a child. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a necessary one, said Rick Shipman, director of the MSU Office of Financial Aid. “One of the most important conversations that should be held prior to a student entering college is ‘the money talk’ with parents,” he said. “As uncomfortable as it might be, having the discussion before school starts will ensure a happy college experience for the entire family.” Shipman advises parents to clearly convey which expenses they will cover. Also, Shipman said, if students are expected to cover some of their own expenses, they need to know their options regarding financial aid, employment or parental assistance. Contact: Rick Shipman, Financial Aid: (517)353-4554,


College students and credit cards

Paper? Or plastic? According to Rick Shipman, director of the MSU Office of Financial Aid, paying with plastic isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do during one’s college years. “We actually advise students to consider getting a credit card if they do not have one when they arrive on campus,” he said. Even though he is a financial aid administrator, Shipman said owning a credit card has many benefits, “simply because today’s world assumes that every consumer has one.” While he notes online shopping is easier with plastic, and “unforeseen circumstances” may require a credit card, there are proactive measures students can take to prevent problems. To listen to these credit card tips and more financial advice, click on Shipman’s podcast at Contact: Rick Shipman, Financial Aid: (517) 353-4554,


College loans
Taking out a college loan may seem like a daunting task for incoming students, but there are many resources than can be used to help alleviate some of the stress. The question, said Rick Shipman, director of the MSU Office of Financial Aid, is how much one is willing to invest in their education. While figures show about 60 percent of MSU undergraduates leave owing some money, just 15 percent of that group owe $20,000 or more – a reasonable statistic according to national experts, Shipman said. But taking out student loans requires students and parents to do some research. For instance, to apply for the federal student Stafford Loan, students and parents must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. And, parents must pass a standard credit test to borrow through the federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students program. Contact: Rick Shipman, Financial Aid: (517) 353-4554,

Student financial aid
Applying for financial aid always gets a bad wrap, but don’t believe all the rumors. By taking just 20 minutes to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online, students may become eligible for a slew of financial resources. While there are more than 125 questions regarding family income and asset information included in the FAFSA, it’s better to finish the application as soon as possible, said Rick Shipman, director of the MSU Office of Financial Aid. “It’s OK if that means you have to use a tax return that is a year old,” he said. “Until the student graduates, the FAFSA must be renewed each year shortly after Jan. 1 for the upcoming year.” Contact: Rick Shipman, Financial Aid: (517) 353-4554,


Eating disorders

For some, college stress may take a greater toll on their bodies than just an upset stomach or a headache before a big exam. “It’s easy to take the stressors (of college) and focus on how you look,” said Kelly Klump, associate professor in the Department of Psychology. Klump is the immediate past- president of the Academy for Eating Disorders. “There is a genetic component and an environmental component, so if you already have a genetic predisposition, the stressors of college life could increase your risk for disordered eating.” Disordered eating can include eating more or less, and/or over exercising. Klump said about .5 percent to 10 percent of women on college campuses suffer from eating disorders.  For a healthier body image, Klump suggests to “find out what your body can do for you rather than comparing yourself to the person sitting next to you in class.” Contact: Kelly Klump, Psychology: (517) 355-9562,; Andy Henion, University Relations: (517) 355-3294, cell (517) 281-6949,



New move-in schedule

Moving into a residence hall for the first time is one of the most exciting and hectic events a college student will experience. But this fall, a new move-in system at MSU is expected to alleviate the chaos. Based on the last digit of a student’s room number, each new student has already been assigned a two-hour block of time to move in Aug. 20-21. “In the past many families would plan to arrive early to avoid the crowds, but this actually created larger crowds in the early morning hours,” said Lindsey LaTour, communications manager with University Housing. “By spreading check-in times throughout the day the demand for elevators, carts, parking spaces and traffic congestion will lessen and make more of a less stressful event.” To see the listing of new times, visit the housing Web site at Contact: Lindsey LaTour, University Housing: (517) 432-3807,

College Life’s Little Lessons Book

Everyone knows there’s a big transition from high school to college for incoming freshmen, but the change may be even greater for at-risk students. But now first-generation college students or low-income students may find the transition smoother with College Life’s Little Lessons Book. The book, which addresses topics from self-esteem to grades, was distributed to students by the College Achievement Admission Program in the Office of Supportive Services at MSU. Members of supportive services wrote this book to better meet their students’ needs, said Betty Sanford, senior academic specialist on staff. “Other resource books of this type did not address some of the issues that plagued our students disproportionately, so we, the Summer University Program: Excellence Required staff, authored this book,” she said. Copies of College Life’s Little Lessons Book are available at supportive services. Contact: Betty Sanford, Office of Supportive Services: (517) 353-5210,


Staying safe at MSU

Making sure their students will be living on a safe campus is one of the biggest concerns of parents when sending their offspring to college. In addition to the resources already in place at MSU, Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor of MSU Police said there are many proactive measures students can take to remain safe and healthy while attending college. Such tips include walking in well-lit areas, not walking alone, utilizing the Night Owl service from the Capital Area Transportation Authority, signing up for the MSU Emergency Text Messaging service and locking doors to their residences. And of course, “Anytime you see things suspicious or out of place, call 911 immediately,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “Too often, people wait.” For more tips on how to stay safe, listen to McGlothian-Taylor’s podcast at Contact: Florene McGlothian-Taylor, MSU Police: (517) 353-8502;


Moped registration on the rise

With rising gas prices, students are looking for a better, more fuel efficient way to travel around campus this fall, and some students are choosing mopeds as their main source of transportation. Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor of the MSU Police said moped registration is on the rise among undergraduate student commuters. MSU Police said the total number of motorcycle and moped registrations was 21 during the 2006-07 academic year for residents and commuters. That number jumped to 37 during 2007-08. However, McGlothian-Taylor reminds students that there are rules that govern the use of mopeds. It’s against the law to ride a moped on the sidewalk, and they must be parked at a bike rack if they operate with an engine smaller than 50 cubic centimeters. “We don’t want (students) to get tickets if they don’t have to,” she said. “We just want to make them aware.” Contact: Florene McGlothian-Taylor, MSU Police: (517) 353-8502;