Gradsense offers budgeting advice for seniors

Graduation is nearly a month away, and many seniors at Florida A&M need a plan for life afterward.

GradSense, a website resource, may help ease the transition into the real world after students complete their undergraduate career.

Alicia Alexander, a FAMU alumna from Fort Lauderdale, said she faced many obstacles after graduating in the fall. It was difficult for her to decide whether she should attend graduate school immediately or learn how to become financially independent.

“The process of planning for post-graduation was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do because I didn’t have many job offers or immediate plans to go to grad school,” Alexander. “Then there was trying to figure out how to become financially responsible without the assistance of net checks.”

GradSensewas designed based on data collected from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Education Statistics to help college graduates strategize for what’s next.

Graduating seniors accumulate a great deal of debt while in college. The Institute for College Access and Success’s Project of Student Debt reports that 71 percent of college seniors who graduated in 2013 had an average student loan debt of $29,400.

GradSense offers users four options on developing a loan repayment plan with opportunities to adjust as time passes and salaries increase:The standard repayment plan is a fixed monthly payment for up to ten years; the graduated repayment plan consists of monthly payments that start out low and increase every two years up to ten years; the extended repayment plan is fixed or graduated monthly payments for up to 25 years; and the income-based, Income-contingent and income-sensitive repayment plans comprise monthly payments that are adjusted to 10-15 percent of graduates’ discretionary income for up to 25 years.

In addition, the financial tool also teaches users how to spend frugally by providing clear examples of price ranges for items such as food and entertainment.

The first step to planning for the future is getting started, according to Marcella Foster, coordinator of the FAMU Graduate Feeder Program.

“I think GradSense is an excellent planning tool that students should continue to use,” Foster said.

With such busy schedules, graduating seniors may not spend as much time meeting with career counselors learning how to prepare for job offers.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers said the average starting salary for a new college graduate is $45,000, which differs depending on the occupation a graduate goes into.

The job tips located on GradSense have helped recent graduates to evaluate job offers and negotiate the appropriate pay once they have found the right opportunity.

Alex Hall, a senior health care management student from Fort Lauderdale, said proper planning is an important part of post-graduation.

“I realize that everything really might not work out the way I envisioned,” Hall said.

The resources found on GradSense can help users formulate the right strategy to make the best financial decisions.