College & Fin Aid Issues
August 29, 2009 3:41 PM   Subscribe

College & Fin Aid Issues

Here's my situation:

I'm 24 years old and unemployed. I have been attending a state university on and off since 2004. However, due to some extreme personal circumstances, my GPA was adversely affected to the point of losing financial aid and causing the university to place me on academic suspension. That was over a year ago.

--I signed up for summer courses at the university and successfully passed them with flying colors. I had hoped this would bring my GPA up to at least 2.0, but it did not. I am still ineligible for financial aid. As of now, it is at 1.905 with the cumulative completion rate of 53%. That needs to be at 67% or above also. Since I was only able to afford summer classes with the help of a few people in my family, it is doubtful I would be able to attend college this fall. So, my plan was to attend community college in the meantime and earn enough credits to raise the GPA. Unfortunately, I was told by an advisor at the state university that the credits earned at any other college, including community colleges, would not count towards the cumulative GPA and completion rate at the university. In other words, this is the "Catch-22" of financial aid for me. I cannot receive financial aid unless I raise my GPA to 2.0 or above and the completion rate to 67% or above. The only way to do that is take courses at the state university. Unfortunately, I cannot afford it without financial aid, since it is practically impossible to find a job right now.

--All of this really came to a full boil two weeks because I never had an idea about the true shape my GPA and such were in, because my advisor at the time never told me. She never sat me down and flat-out told me, "Okay, your academic transcript here is looking bad. You need to do this and that." None of that. She had my transcript up right in front of her. She did not make recommendations for what I could do, etc., other than sign up for courses.

--I worked out my issues and I did really well last summer and I have no doubt that the trend will continue into the fall and onward. All I need to do is find means of getting money so I can attend classes in the spring and finally graduate in 2011, so I can move on with my life.

--I just hate that there's such a struggle for my "second chance" when I know I will do well. And yet, people are not willing to take their chances with me, and they never fail to remind me of my own mistakes in the past. I was young. I learned my lesson the hard way. That's all I have to say about this.

--Oh, and yes, I've applied for alternative private loans. I was denied because of bad credit, and there isn't anyone creditworthy in my family I could ask to be my cosigner.

--What are my options other than keep trying to find a job and save up?
posted by nameinruins to Education (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you get an associates degree at the community college? That might open up a lot of options.
posted by phrontist at 3:48 PM on August 29, 2009

I agree with phrontist. Getting an associates degree and transferring in may be the answer. Many people use community colleges to prove themselves and get into schools they would never have been able to get into in the first place (I'm in So. Cal., many community colleges here are "feeder colleges" to the big universities). Best of luck to you! Hang in there.
posted by 6:1 at 4:02 PM on August 29, 2009

Have you scheduled a meeting in person with a financial services adviser at your school and talked in length about your dilemma? University officials are often able to bend the rules, especially if you have a personal contact within the college: you'd be surprises what they might be able to do for you.

Also, asking a professor who is fond of you to write a letter to financial services on behalf of you might help your cause (if you did well in your summer classes, I'm sure there are people who would be willing do this). You have probably declared a major by now and are taking most of your classes in one academic department; I don't know how it works in you school, but in my college departments had money that could be awarded to students as scholarships, especially if you do work/research there. You have nothing to lose, so why not give it a try?
posted by halogen at 4:04 PM on August 29, 2009

Ask your school if it has any "academic renewal" policies. (My school will let you take two years off to see the world, then reapply and start over with a fresh GPA. )

Appeal. Appeal to everyone you can imagine. Be brutally honest; appeal to their emotions. Appeal, appeal, appeal.

If that doesn't work, you need to get a job and a plan ASAP. College does not make your future, you do. There's plenty of losers with college degrees, and plenty of badass, awesome people who never had to listen a single lecture by some baldy, ugly Mr. Professor.

This could be a sign that you just don't belong there. This could be one of the best things that ever happened to you.
posted by Theloupgarou at 4:04 PM on August 29, 2009

If you go the appeal route, stop with the "blame the adviser" routine. When you enroll in higher education, you're supposed to be an adult who is responsible for his own academic career. Claiming that an adviser didn't take adequate care of you is only going to make you seem like an unsympathetic, whiny character.

If you get a job, can you afford to go back part time for a term or two? That way you can work on your GPA until you can qualify for financial aid again.
posted by Hildegarde at 4:17 PM on August 29, 2009 [7 favorites]

Have you already applied for a Federal Direct Loan? They don't require any kind of credit history of undergrads. It is awarded through your school, but I've never heard of there being a GPA requirement for this.

Your other option is to transfer to a school that will accept the credits you've already earned and provide financial aid for you. If it's too late in the semester, you can go to a community college fall semester, and then transfer to a school that will accept both the state college and community college credits in the spring.

Or, the option I know you don't want to hear about... working this semester, then going back in the spring and making up the extra semester that summer or the next one. It's not true that there are *no* jobs. There are plenty of very low paying, difficult, disheartening, etc. jobs that nobody wants to do. But in time they could pay for a few college classes.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:30 PM on August 29, 2009

Yes, what Hildegarde said about not blaming the advisor. Ultimately, you are the only one responsible for keeping track of your GPA (the school should have the formula available online, or even your current GPA available online, mine did), and making sure you are aid-eligible.
Who is keeping you from getting aid? The school? Lenders? Is this that you don't qualify for federal student loans/work-study/grants? Find out who decides if you get aid. If it's the school, you might have some way to appeal it, but if it's a federal regulation, then you are probably out of luck until your GPA improves.
Finding some type of job and going back part-time until your GPA is high enough to get aid again may be the only practical option if you're ineligible for aid. They don't give aid to people with low GPAs because you're seen as much more likely to drop/fail out, and therefore be much less likely to have a job where you can pay off your loans.
Usually if you have some type of qualifying family situation or personal emergency, the school will let you drop your classes without failing them. Have you asked if there is any way to retroactively do this?
posted by ishotjr at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2009

Oh! Almost forgot. Some companies will pay for your schooling if you work there even part time. UPS and Costco both do this (or have the last time I heard), as two examples.
posted by Ashley801 at 4:35 PM on August 29, 2009

What do you want to do? What is the purpose of higher education for you? Do you have a goal besides the degree? Much of the time a degree does not automatically guarantee a career.
I'm glad a mod came in and edited your question for you because as initially posted it was practically unreadable. I don't mean to be harsh, but perhaps you need to work on your communication skills.
Don't look on time off from school in the job market as a loss. It may be what you need right now, to clarify what you want to get out of your education and give you incentive to do better when you get a second chance. I have learned more from jobs than I ever did from school, when it comes to practical skills. Get a job, pay attention, ask questions and take advantage of any additional training or opportunity you can. Attend school part-time to get that GPA up.
I got my education in fits and starts over ten years, ending up in an entirely different area than I started out in. My original goals were for a career, in retrospect, I wasn't suited for. Maybe your scholastic problems center on being in the wrong kind of classes FOR YOU. It might just be a matter of finding a good fit.
posted by readery at 5:02 PM on August 29, 2009

Do you have to go back to your state university? I thought your financial aid troubles didn't carry over into other schools, or maybe that only applies to going from a 4-year (after failing) to a 2-year.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 5:05 PM on August 29, 2009


Excuse me. Don't make assumptions about my communication skills when there is a reason for the "unreadability" of my post. This is my first time posting on this site and every time I hit "Preview" after typing this post, with spaces between paragraphs and all, it got clumped together into one long-winded paragraph.

You insult my intelligence when you make unfounded assumptions about me because of a technical error that I could not figure out how to fix in the first place.
posted by nameinruins at 6:10 PM on August 29, 2009

As for the other comments, I thank you all. I will take every bit of advice given here into serious consideration. Theloupgarou's in particular.

Going back to college after a year of academic suspension was always my plan. After numerous failures culminating to the academic suspension, I used the time to re-evaluate my goals and whatnot. It always came back to college. That much, I know. I want to major in art, which I was before the suspension.

However, the university I enrolled at was never my first or second choice. Hell, it was never even on my list of potential colleges. Being 18 at the time, I was dissatisfied and uncertain of my life and goals, so I just went to the university's website and pulled up the application, filled it out, and submitted it. That was it. Why the university in particular? Because most of my friends from high school went there. That, and its location was convenient, even though I hated living in southern Illinois at the time.

Maybe that's it. Maybe this particular university is not the right one for me since I never even wanted to go there in the first place and also because it had me living in southern Illinois a while longer. I had always dreamed of going to a college in California or New York. So, theloupgarou's comment that perhaps this is the sign I needed may not be too far off the mark.

The summer classes were for one goal: to see if I could really apply myself to my studies and whatnot. I succeeded. It just wasn't enough to satisfy the requirements for financial aid eligibility. At this time, I need to get an A in one course or two B's in two courses to bring my GPA up to 2.0, and eight courses altogether to bring my cumulative completion rate up to 67%. Being ineligible for financial aid until then, naturally presents a difficult situation I need to consider carefully.

But yes, higher education has been and always will be my goal. It is all I think about--finishing college and proving myself to the family that I can forge my own path in life without depending on them or submitting to their judgment that I am incapable of making "right" choices. I have been wanting to pursue a double-major program for some time now--either in art and business or art and mass communications.

So, it isn't as though I'm being impulsive about this. If anything, the only "impulsion" I have right now is the serious consideration of the possibility of moving to California or New York and start afresh as a freshman student at the university that I wanted to attend in the first place. However, that seems drastic because it's not like I can just take all of my belongings and whatever's remaining in my checking account and move, right?
posted by nameinruins at 6:31 PM on August 29, 2009

higher education has been and always will be my goal. It is all I think about--finishing college and proving myself to the family that I can forge my own path in life without depending on them or submitting to their judgment

Do you want to finish college only to prove yourself to your family, or are there other reasons? Do you plan to pursue a career as an artist, or in some other field? It sounds like you're not working at present ("it is practically impossible to find a job right now"). What kinds of jobs were you trying to get?
posted by prefpara at 6:46 PM on August 29, 2009

You say you only need to take one course this semester and get an A, in order to be back in regular student status next semester. Can't you do that part-time? How much does one subject cost? If you're not working now, does that mean you're living with family or something, so you have no expenses? Can you stay there during semester?
posted by jacalata at 8:26 PM on August 29, 2009

Do the posters brushing off the need for a degree have experience looking for work when you don't have a degree? Say you are a person who is not an IT-tech whiz kid and doesn't have significant experience from high school in one area. That is, you are like most of the population and do not have any specific highly marketable skills. The difference between you-of-the-not-highly-marketable-skillset and you-of-the-not-highly-marketable-skillset-with-a-college-degree is basically the difference between getting a job that pays a living wage and stocking auto parts at a warehouse (hello Example A right here).

There are many, many jobs in the US that do not require a college degree but want one anyway. You get a college degree, even an associate's, to get those jobs.
posted by schroedinger at 8:52 PM on August 29, 2009

Keep in mind that real California and New York may not match your fantasy of California and New York. Also, college in California and New York will probably be much more expensive than college in Illinois, because you'd either be paying private school tuition or out-of-state rates.

I agree about not blaming the advisor. In general, I think you might want to consider how you come across, at least in writing.

Given your interests, I would take a look at Columbia College in Chicago. I know that Chicago isn't California or New York, but it's a big city with a vibrant art and graphic design scene. Columbia is really strong in the arts, and their particular focus is preparing students in the arts for actual careers. I would consider getting an associate's at your local community college and then transferring to some place like Columbia or UIC for your last two years. If you can buckle down and do well at community college for two years, it will save you some money, increase your confidence, and make you a more attractive prospect to four-year colleges.

There isn't a quick fix to this problem. You need to come up with long-term goals (get a degree, move to New York or California) and then work out the steps that it will take to get you to that goal. I think right now those steps are probably:

1. Get a job if you can and enroll in community college. This means living in Southern Illinois for a little while longer, but hopefully that should be bearable if you're really focused on a long-term goal that will get you out of there.

2. Apply to four-year colleges on the strength of your community college transcript. At this point, you should be eligible for financial aid at your new college. Yay!

3. While you are at your four-year college, figure out how to network with potential employers in California and New York. Can you find a paid summer internship in one of those places? Get a part-time job with a company that has an office in one of those places? Talk to career services at your four-year college about how to go about establishing yourself in the city to which you want to move.
posted by craichead at 9:07 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Regarding your counselor: you have to ask and ask, they don't know what you want until you tell them. They don't know your life situation and what you hope to achieve, all they know is what courses you should take to graduate in your chosen major.

What about internships? That might be a way to get out of your town, and get some experience in something your interested in. americorps, the SCA? Both have education awards depending on how long the internship is.
posted by shinyshiny at 4:46 PM on August 30, 2009

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