Incoming students excited despite economic challenges

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (NBC12) - This weekend, VCU is welcoming the class of 2013.

Freshmen move-in started Saturday morning and goes through the weekend.

In a tough economy, the new class is focused on tightening the purse strings.

Ninety percent of the class of 3700 comes from right here in the Commonwealth.

Students and parents we talked to say right now, the decision to go to a Virginia school and pay in-state tuition makes the most sense for their pocketbooks.

For many teenagers, college is the most exciting time of their lives.

"Something new right now," said one student. "I cant believe I'm going to college for real."

For the class of 2013, what's going on in the world outside a college campus had a huge impact on which university they chose to attend.

Alonza Bland's older brother went to school in North Carolina but it proved too costly for the family.

Coming from Newport News and qualifying for financial aid helped the soon-to-be business major's mother send him to VCU.

"I'm a waitress it's been very hard for me," Terre Bland. "It's a great opportunity with him getting his financial aid to come in with this recession, we count it as doing real good."

School officials say when putting together the budget, they focus on financial aid because so many people need it nowadays.

The University also tries to teach that fiscal responsibility.

"We also make sure that students understand that whether they're living on campus or off, that they budget accordingly so they can meet their needs and we're always willing to work with individual students if they have any problem," said VCU dean of Student Affairs Dr. Reuban Rodriguez.

For many incoming freshmen, "make every penny count" is a new theme.

"Just to save my money," said Alonza Bland. "Not to spend it on things I don't need, like shoes or clothes or something. I have to manage my money for food and other things, for school and books."

It won't be too long before this feeling wears off.

"It's a lot going on," said Alonza. "I'm still shocked that I'm really in college."

And the hard work to enter a highly competitive job market begins.

"They say they really look at your grades so to keep high grades that would better me to get my job," said Alonza. "That's what I'm basically going to do: keep my grades up so they look at me before they look at someone else."

VCU will welcome almost 33,000 students University-wide.

That's the largest enrollment is school history.

Classes start Thursday.

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