How can I afford to stay in college?
January 27, 2005 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm a full-time college sophomore. I'm working full time, 35 hours a week, to try and make ends meet but I'm having a hard time. I know there was another thread on loans earlier, but my situation is different.

The disbursement I get from the federal student loan programs is not enough to cover my tuition itself, and the extra cost of room, board, books and other necessities is eating in and I'm beginning to run up serious credit card debt. My parents make enough money to keep me from getting grants or financial need scholarships, but they will not help me with school, nor will they co-sign a 3rd party loan. I live in a very cheap apartment and take the bus to school, and I've cut food and entertainment expenses to the minimums. I talked to the financial aid office and they said that there was nothing they could do except offer me a position on campus (for less hours and the same money as my current job) or give me a list of 3rd party loan providers. I called the providers, but they all rejected me because I'm too young (21), single and don't have a cosigner.

What do I do? I feel like I'm being punished for trying to go to school.
posted by anonymous to Education (59 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your parents aren't helping you at all, you might be able to petition your schools financial aid office to be declared independent. Once you're declared independent, the financial aid will only take into account your finances, and not your parents. The financial aid will be a lot easier to come by in that scenario.
posted by split atom at 12:14 PM on January 27, 2005

It's a tough situation. I'm glad I was never there myself. If you can't lower your expenses, you need to make more money. Credit-card debt is an albatross you need to clear up as soon as possible--this is serious.

Question: can you work more without it hampering your schoolwork? Does working 35 hours hamper it now? If so, you're not getting your money's worth out of college.

There would be no shame in dropping out for a semester or two, working full-time, saving up, and re-enrolling (unless your school would make that difficult).

I'd certainly exhaust other options first, but I wouldn't feel too badly about taking time off from school.
posted by adamrice at 12:31 PM on January 27, 2005

Split atom is right, so try that first.

But, if that doesn't work, consider this: plenty of folks work full time and go to school part time. It will take longer, but I've seen it work better than the "traditional" path for a lot of people. You can get a job related to the field you plan to go into, then use the time to network and so forth.
posted by whatnot at 12:34 PM on January 27, 2005

Who is considered independent for financial aid purposes?

For financial aid purposes, a student is considered to be an “independent student” during 2005-06 if he or she can answer yes to the following questions on the FASFA:

Were you born before January 1, 1982?
During the school year 2005-2006, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an MA/MS, MBA, MD, JD, Ph.D., Ed.D. graduate certificate, etc.)?
Are you married?
Do you have children who receive more than half of their support from you?
Do you have dependents other than the student's children or spouse?
Are you an orphan, or were you (until age 18) a ward/dependent of the court?
Are you a veteran? (Have you served active duty and been discharged from the military, other than a dishonorable discharge?)

If you cannot answer yes to at least one of these questions, then you will be considered to be a “dependent student” for financial aid purposes.
If you do not qualify for independent status according to the above but you have special circumstances that you believe make you an independent student, you can submit an appeal to our office. Parents’ unwillingness to help with educational expenses or the fact that the student is not claimed on the parents’ tax return does NOT qualify a student for self-support status.

I guess it doesn't hurt to ask, but it doesn't look good. I'll just reiterate the time off/ part time student suggestions.
For most people the degree is worth it, no matter how long it takes.
posted by Floydd at 12:44 PM on January 27, 2005

they will not help me with school, nor will they co-sign a 3rd party loan

This is your problem; your parents are fuckwits.

You can try to establish financial independence with your school, but I would expect this to be difficult. At a bare minimum, the school will probably want to see that you were not declared as a dependent on your parents' taxes for the past N years.

The first thing you should do is try to get your parents to realize that they're being unhelpful fuckwits, but be nicer than that. *HERE* is how your decision is damaging my life now, *HERE* is how your decision is going to continue damaging my life for the foreseeable future. You can help my life be better, at no direct cost to yourselves, by agreeing to cosign a loan. Why do you refuse to help me when it is at no cost to you?

Going to school part-time for six years is probably better than coming out with $15000 in credit-card loans, but both options suck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:45 PM on January 27, 2005

Parents’ unwillingness to help with educational expenses or the fact that the student is not claimed on the parents’ tax return does NOT qualify a student for self-
support status.

Nonetheless, financial aid officers make exemptions. Are you estranged entirely from your parents, or will they simply not help with school? My ex-fiance managed to get declared independent for financial aid purposes despite being under 24 because she had not lived with or (largely) spoken to her parents since she was 16.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2005


It really will haunt you for years. It took me nearly 10 years to pay off the cc debt I accumulated in college.
posted by jpoulos at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2005

Independence is tricky. Here are the criteria, at least on the federal level:

An independent student is not expected to have a parent contribution.
To be classified as independent for Federal aid purposes, a student must
either be 24 years of age or meet one of the following exceptions
1. be married
2. have a dependent
3. be a graduate or professional student
4. be a ward of the court or an orphan
5. be a veteran

So, short of having a marriage of convenience or offing your parents, you probably won't be able to work this right now. In three years, though.... Yeah, that sucks. But taking a sabbatical for a few years and returning with some money saved and financial aid eligibility might suck less than going to school half time and working full time now.

Note that if your school has its own financial aid programs, you might be able to meet lower standards for independence, so it's definitely worth asking.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:52 PM on January 27, 2005

I had a fulltime job through most of college, sometimes I had two jobs. I found that htoel desk jobs were good because you could get a lot of school work done on the downtime. Just don't work the morning shift. If you can find a small bed and breakfast that needs an afternoon manager, you're all set. I worked at a Bed and Breakfast with 9 rooms for 3 years. It was the most cake job you could ever ask for. Perfect for an English major who needed lots of time to read novels and a computer to write papers on. I basically had 5 to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, to get my school work done. It's not the easiest way to get through college, but, it can be done and it beats being saddled with massive debt when you graduate.
posted by trbrts at 12:55 PM on January 27, 2005

I was in exactly your shoes 9 years ago. I ended up having to attend school part-time. But the financial aid people at my school were able to help me land some extra scholarship and loan funds that made life easier.

My advice? Talk to your dean and to the people in your financial aid office. They might know of an option you haven't considered, or there may be an alumni/benefactor fund that has been set up for cases like yours. Colleges have all kinds of secrets like these.

Also, if possible, try to maximize your earning potential. Is there a job you can land that will pay more? I gave up the work-study grind for the more lucrative world of bartending. The rough part was that I worked nights and got very little sleep. But I was able to finish school eventually and had some extra scratch for life's essentials along the way.

Not sure how helpful this is, but I hope you find a solution that works for you. I feel for you, kid. Best of luck!
posted by mds35 at 12:59 PM on January 27, 2005

This is your problem; your parents are fuckwits.

I encourage you not to waste your time on this avenue of thought. Your parents have obviously decided that they don't want to spend oodles of dough on your tuition, and they are under no obligation to do so. Perhaps they wish to retire at 60 instead of 70. Whatever.

Running up debt at a high level of interest will likely overwhelm any financial benefit that you get from college. You would probably be better off in the long run to go part-time and/or at a less expensive institution. Also, you might consider getting a job at a university (if you live somewhere like Boston) or any company that offers a tuition reimbursement plan. In ten years, no one will care very much where you went to school or how long it took you to graduate, but they will care if you have a bankruptcy on your record, and you will care if you have a ton of consumer debt.
posted by anapestic at 1:01 PM on January 27, 2005

I satisfied both the federal and New York State requirements for financial independence and my school still wouldn't recognize it because their policy was that if a student had ever been a financial dependent while enrolled, that student would always be considered a financial dependent. So definitely try it, but it's a rough road.

Ditto everyone saying that taking time off and working full-time is better than racking up ever more credit card debt, though it's definitely sub-optimal.

(On preview: anapestic has a good idea in seeking a university job. A friend of mine got his degree that way.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:07 PM on January 27, 2005

This is your problem; your parents are fuckwits.

My parents had very good reasons for not co-signing the loans I needed. I'm sure anonymous's do, too. I hated them for it for a while, and I still think they were wrong, but if anonymous can't persuade the folks, I hope that he/she will follow some of the more constructive pieces of counsel given above.
posted by mds35 at 1:08 PM on January 27, 2005

i also recommend the taking a year off/dropping to part-time student status. you obviously feel demoralized by your situation (which, by the way, i can undertand), but you are prolonging that feeling of helplessness and demoralization by saddling yourself with incredible credit debt.

i know you've tried to talk to the financial aid people at school, but i suggest you try again. talk to the dean of students first, explaining the situation and why you felt FinAid was unresponsive. hopefully, the dean of students will be able to help you get a better response out of FinAid. in addition to talking to the financial aid counselors at school, i'd suggest looking into just plan old fashioned counseling at school. feeling like you're being punished for trying to better yourself is just not good and you don't need that stress on top of the money stress.

i've known lots of good, smart, successful people who took longer than four years to get through school. like anapestic said, when you finally get into the post-college world, all that stuff that's supposed to matter (school rank, class rank) cease to mean anything to most people.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2005

For financial aid purposes, a student is considered to be an “independent student” during 2005-06 if he or she can answer yes to the following questions on the FASFA:

Are you married?

There ya go. Get married. Try to arrange it with someone that your parents loathe and make sure that they know why you're doing it. Hell, marry someone who wants U.S. citizenship and you'll earn money off of becoming an independent student.
posted by jperkins at 1:31 PM on January 27, 2005

I was in this exact same situation last year. Spent a lot of time on the phone with various people in the financial aid office, and what it came down to was that while exceptions could be made, they were in actuality only made for immigrants from third-world countries whose parents were completely unreachable. I finally got my mom to cosign on a very small loan which wasn't disbursed 'til a couple months into the semester, and which was promptly devoured by rent and overdue bills. Worked when I wasn't sleeping or schooling, was constantly miserable, barely scraped through the semester and said the hell with it.

So yeah, Anon, I don't have any advice but I do feel your pain.
posted by squidlarkin at 1:43 PM on January 27, 2005

If you are considering dropping out to make up the funds, why don't you try this?

Fill out the necessary forms, get the envelope ready and stamped, and go to your parents home. Tell them "Either you cosign the loan I need to continue, give me the money I need, or I'm giving up on my education until I have the money." If they say no, sign the letter, seal it up in the envelope, tell them they need to drive you to the post office to send if off because you're too broke to afford the gas.

You'll probably break their hearts doing this, but if you know they have the money and they're just being stingy, they will do what it takes to solve the problem.

Don't do this if you know they can't afford to help you.

There would, of course, be the side effect of perhaps putting a wound in your relationship with your parents, but time heals all, and it's better to have this done now than not.

Nobody likes to be threatened, but perhaps your parents don't realize how serious your situation is.
posted by shepd at 1:43 PM on January 27, 2005

I was in a very similar situation going through school. I ended up taking many classes at local community colleges – the tuition is much cheaper and, as an old professor of mine use to say, “They don’t put an asterisk on your diploma if you take a few classes at a community college.” I also transferred from a public school to a private school. The tuition at the public school was 1/3rd of the private schools’ tuition, but I got a scholarship from the private school that covered my tuition completely.

I did take one 3rd party loan out, and it’s the one thing I regret. They have really high interest – I actually have a credit card with lower interest.
posted by a22lamia at 1:47 PM on January 27, 2005

Lots of people went through the same thing (my parents were fuckwits). The thing to remember is that its about your life now. Its college -- its about your education and your future -- there is no timetable. If its too much of a pain in the ass now, drop out. don't go back until you want to go back. It took me twelve years to finish undergrad and I waited three years to go to law school. it all worked out fine in the end and I had a good time in those 15 years.

There is actually kind of an advantage in having your parent refuse to pay -- it forces you to realize that it is all yours.
posted by rtimmel at 1:52 PM on January 27, 2005

Are you sure you are using all of your loans? I thought you could get up to 30k/per an if you took unsubsidized as well. I think community college can be a good option, but if you are in your 4th semester, time for that has just about run out. Have you looked into the pretty good state school in your state. I have no idea where you live, but most everystate can brag about theirs to some degree.
posted by jmgorman at 1:53 PM on January 27, 2005

My parents had very good reasons for not co-signing the loans I needed. I'm sure anonymous's do, too.

The point, which I should have been clearer about, is that anonymous is still probably more likely to get the money out of his parents than from the school, especially if he's been a dependent in the past. The school is unlikely to have a program of "So your parents are assholes who refuse to contribute to your future -- here, have some of our money."

And he shouldn't be shy about it. They're being assholes, and he doesn't need to sit still and just take it, or owe them some sort of respectful acceptance of their decision. Go bug them. Again. Point out to them in excruciating detail how they're harming him, because they are. Show them the consequences of their decision for someone they claim to love. Use guilt shamelessly against them. Talk to their parents, assuming they're alive, or other relatives and get them on your side; whoever you might be able to win over, win over.

Anonymous has nothing whatsoever to lose by asking and asking again, assuming that they're not going to become violent. He's already getting nothing from them, and they can't retroactively charge him money for his previous upkeep.

All of which is probably a very uphill battle, and one that anonymous will likely not win. But probably still better odds than getting the financial aid department to cough up the money.

If all else fails, dropping out is better than getting huge credit-card debt. But the problem is that it makes implicit the really major cost of college -- foregone income. If anonymous goes this route, I'd suggest finding ways to make really firm plans to get back to school, ways to bind yourself to that course.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:59 PM on January 27, 2005

I'm going to suggest something that I haven't seen yet-
switch schools. I was in a very similar situation to you until just recently, but I went to a very inexpensive school (Minnesota State University Moorhead).

Even though my parents wouldn't help, and I could only get measly loans the first year (and none thereafter) I made it through by working and paying as I went.

You can get by very cheap at a state school, and lots of schools will give you scholarships. I got an art scholarship every semester, and worked almost all the rest off. I've graduated owing about 1k$. Not bad. You can do it, too... but you need to go somewhere you can afford. Sure, expensive school, prestige, whatever. Nobody cares, and you don't want to be a slave to your debt for the next N years.
posted by fake at 2:05 PM on January 27, 2005

I second the marriage of convenience option. But make sure they're equally poor or you can't get any loans.
posted by u.n. owen at 2:08 PM on January 27, 2005

One thought: is there a search service for private scholarships you could try (this link is an example more than an endorsement)? On preview: I tend to agree with the "take a break, earn your tuition" crowd, rather than the "threaten your parents with dropping out" crowd. I personally can't believe you're essentially working full-time and going to school - I completed my MA part-time while working full-time, and I'm sure the latte guy in the lobby of the classroom building paid off his credit cards with all the money I spent there trying to stay awake nights. No decision you make will be without its drawbacks, but school will mean more when you're done because you solved it yourself. Good luck!
posted by deliriouscool at 2:12 PM on January 27, 2005

Ditto what fake said. I gave up the private liberal arts school dream once my parents made it perfectly clear they weren't footing the bill for any of it. I took out federal loans and went to a state university while working full-time. It took five years for me to finish, but I ended up with a decent job and totally manageable student loan debt. Nobody cares where you went for your undergraduate degree, I promise.
posted by makonan at 2:13 PM on January 27, 2005

No trusted family friend/relative/mentor that is in a better finacial position or disposition than your parents (because we don't know their circumstances) who you could ask to co-sign the loan?
posted by mhaw at 2:24 PM on January 27, 2005

I was in a similar situation (but was saved by my dad cosigning a third party loan). I made no headway by talking to the financial aid department, but I'm guessing that if I had spoken to one of the deans of students, they may have been able to help me find a solution. Be a squeaky wheel for as long as you can stand it. If all else fails, there really is nothing wrong with taking some time off to get your finances and mental state in order, you'll probably enjoy school more if you go back with no worries about money.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:49 PM on January 27, 2005

If you "take a break", be prepared for it to be permanent or semi-permanent. I've never seen a "break" of less than five years.
posted by u.n. owen at 2:51 PM on January 27, 2005

I took a break for a year and a half and came back and finished. If you want to finish, you will.
posted by anapestic at 3:00 PM on January 27, 2005

Lots of colleges are VERY wary of declaring people younger than 25 to be independent from their parents.

I think a bank loan is still your best bet if at all possible - you can pay off that high-interest credit card debt, and it gets you out of school and into a career that pays higher than what you could earn now as quickly as possible.
Is there another adult (aunt, uncle, older sibling) who can cosign the loan? Can your school help you find other loan providers?

If you do take time off, I would encourage you to consider working as a restaurant server or bartender. Of all the jobs I have encountered that don't require college, these pay the best by far.
posted by mai at 3:03 PM on January 27, 2005

I took a break of less than five years. I worked in a job I hated and it inspired me to get back to school or die trying. I finally graduated, and now work in a job I hate.

I also was able to petition for the elusive independent status. It was a huge hassle and very nearly required a court order, but I did finally get it.

Marriage of convenience is always an option, but in the event that it is discovered that you married to defraud the school, there can be some fairly serious consequences.
posted by Sheppagus at 3:13 PM on January 27, 2005

I'm going to suggest something that I haven't seen yet-
switch schools

That's always an option, but don't limit yourself to schools where the tuition you see on their web page looks good. Apply to the best schools you think you could get into, and see what happens with aid. The tuition you see on the web page of a private schools is almost never what you actually pay, and not uncommon for private schools to work out cheaper than state-U for many students.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:17 PM on January 27, 2005

If anonymous' parents won't cosign loans, then they are, in fact, fuckwits.

I second the idea of finding a trusted family friend to cosign. Maybe they'll do it, or maybe it will humiliate your parents into doing it.

Alternately, open an account with your friendly local bank. My bank happily loaned me money when I was 20, because I sat down with the president, who knew me because I was their customer, and assured him that I'd pay him back, which I did.

If you "take a break", be prepared for it to be permanent or semi-permanent.

I took a break, in no small part because I didn't have the $32,000/year to go to the college into which I was accepted. I'm now 26, and I graduate in May. I'm quite happy with my decision.
posted by waldo at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2005

Do not get credit card debt. Just don't. Oops, too late. Well, cut up your credit cards and get a check card instead. You won't do this, but you should. Credit cards are not for people who cannot reasonably expect to have enough money to pay off their bills every month. If you treat them like this, you are just paying extra money for everything you buy, and ruining your credit rating for when you really need it.

Are you sure you're living as cheaply as you can? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Stop. Do you use coupons and only buy things when they're on sale? Start. Could you, this minute, hand me a breakdown of your monthly expenditures, by category, that you printed from a spreadsheet or a financial program like Quicken? You should be able to, or else you're not managing your money well enough, and you're probably wasting some.

Have you talked to your department? They often offer tuition-paid positions with a stipend. At my school, they'll pay your tuition and give you $1200 a month to live on if you can get a TA or GA position -- usually this is for grad students, but you can get an RA (or Research Assistant) position that is the same thing, and I know some undergrads who have done this. Talk to your department about this, and also that one professor who really likes you. These people are more likely to be nice to you than the financial aid office.

When you filled out your FAFSA, did you check the box that says "Yes, I'm interested in Work Study aid"? Work study is great for you because you can usually get a higher wage out of it, since your employer doesn't have to pay your entire salary. On the other hand, I would imagine (though I don't know for sure) that it is easier to get work study than a loan, because financial aid doesn't have to pay all of your money, either. It worked great for me. Look into it, please!

Why won't your parents give you a loan? Have you actually said to them, "look, if I don't get this money, I won't be able to finish college, and I'll have wasted all this time and money," or did you just say, "Hey, I'm a little short, could I get some cash?"

Hey, applied for any scholarships or grants lately? Why not? You'd better have a damned good excuse.

Lastly, do you have any other relatives who are more likely to help you, either with a loan or a co-sign? Your parents do not have to know.
posted by Hildago at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2005

Anonymous, you can do this. I talked about this a bit in the earlier thread you mentioned, but my advice is more on point here, because my situation was identical to yours. I didn't have family financial support, and why doesn't matter. You are where you are, so keep your focus on what's in your power to do. "Convenience marriage" is not the way to go. The only thing you need less than what you have already hanging over your head is to be legally saddled to someone who doesn't care about you. Your life, including your credit, could get a lot more trashed if you relinquish that kind of control over it.

I took two years out after my sophomore year, maximized my Pell, grants, and scholarships, and worked. Of all my precollege jobs, I found waitressing in a good restaurant my best income source. When I went back to school, I lived off the assistance, savings, and part-time work. Lots of people in my program helped me supplement that with house-sitting jobs, one-off jobs doing research or clerical assistance, scholarship recommendations, and good job leads (man, I would have loved that b+b job!). If you've had any instructors who you've connected to and who have encouraged your work, don't be ashamed to tell them you're struggling and need help. Even if they don't know how to assist you, they can help you find someone somewhere who can. (Oh, and by the way, I went to a State U and consider myself fortunate. I think I got more mentorship and support than I might have otherwise, thanks to the professors in my program who saw how serious I was and wanted to help me.)

Most of all, don't despair. It's so easy to do, in a bad apartment with bad food and a bad job and little help. Have faith in yourself. This really isn't a brainless slogan. I didn't think about it in such conscious terms then, but while I was in school, I had faith in my worth. I knew I belonged there. When I needed help to stay there, I sought it out, confident that I deserved it. You shouldn't for a moment feel shame at approaching anyone in your school -- instructor, financial aid officer, dean of students -- with your situation and asking for help. Keep fighting. If you have to take time out, know that you will go back. I wish you the best.
posted by melissa may at 3:32 PM on January 27, 2005

Similar situation when I was in school.

I would recommend not taking the break, and finish school whatever it takes.

I found that one could survive almost exclusively on macaroni and cheese and peanut butter/jelly sandwiches.

If you're career goals align with military services (they need lawyers and doctors too!), they have tremendous scholarship packages.

just some additional thoughts for you
posted by forforf at 3:34 PM on January 27, 2005

I worked full-time too, did school part-time.

If the campus job gives you free credits, take that.
posted by amberglow at 4:07 PM on January 27, 2005

Oh, and by the way, I went to a State U and consider myself fortunate

Nothing wrong with State U, and I didn't mean to imply that there was. I went to a Big State U, and have taught so far at 3 Big State U's.

I only meant that people shouldn't feel limited to only state u, or regional-state-u-with-a-cheap-declared-tuition. Private schools are also within most people's grasp. Not all of them, to be sure, but if you apply to a smattering of them, it's likely that at least one that you get into will offer you a good deal.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:14 PM on January 27, 2005

I worked full-time and went to school part-time and found that it helped me mentally to be at a school designed for that situation. Just about everyone at my school was in the same boat, and most classes met only once a week. Depending on where you go, evening classes are sometimes cheaper, especially at private schools. At mine, classes were around $400 compared to $1400 for the daytime equivalents. (And they cost $100 for employees.) This option isn't for everyone - if you mind missing all the extracurriculars, social stuff etc. that come with a day school you probably won't be happy.

And if you need a break to save up some money or rethink your options- take it! If you believe you'll go back, you will.
posted by sophie at 4:26 PM on January 27, 2005

is there a search service for private scholarships you could try?

In general, foundations and others offering scholarships don't have any shortage of applicants, so they aren't going to fund (or support) a database. Thus a search service has to spend its own money to build a database (if in fact it does, rather than, say, simply providing a self-help pamphlet), and its got to recover its costs somehow.

Other than "nominal" fees, of course, there are different business models, it appears:

FastWeb is able to offer its free services, in part, based on the willingness of our users to be reached by colleges or our marketing partners. By checking YES below, FastWeb may make the information you supply available to colleges and leading companies so you'll receive free information on college financing and admissions, offers and promotions designed just for students, coupons from campus bookstores, freebies and more.

AllScholar can provide this valuable service at no cost to you by sharing the personally identifiable information that you provide with: colleges and universities nationwide that want to recruit students with your qualifications; organizations that help find the school that best meets your career aspirations or fund your education; student achievement organizations, including National Honor Roll, so that you may receive information about possible induction and scholarships; and businesses offering products and services of particular interest to students and their families.

Personally, I don't believe in Santa Claus. Maybe that's just me. Perhaps it would be worth the time to (a) search these databases and (b) fill out applications, write essays, whatever. Or perhaps not.
posted by WestCoaster at 4:26 PM on January 27, 2005

DO continue to keep an eye out for scholarships tho, althought, as WestCoaster says, it does take time, and you'll have to prioritize-- I don't know about the U.S., but in Canada, thousands go unclaimed every year, because no one with the right qualifications applies. My parents aren't paying for my education at all either...the government, and a few private organizations are.
Wish I could help, good luck.
posted by stray at 4:31 PM on January 27, 2005

Reevaluate *all* your costs. I'm surprised that working 35 hrs/week + going to school = barely scraping by. I know school is expensive and the job you have probably doesn't pay well, but most students I knew who paid for school on their own worked around 20 hrs/week.

Costs that should be cut in addition to those mentioned above: cable, ISP, cell phone.

You say you take the bus to school. Do you take the bus to work? Is your commute costing you a lot in gas money? (probably not)

I went to a state school (4 years ago) and the federal loans (stafford) more than covered tuition. So, even though private school have a lot of financial aid to offer, I get the sense that you are not in the situation described by ROU_Xenophobe.

posted by achmorrison at 5:06 PM on January 27, 2005

i took this to MeTa (but in a good and possibly helpful) way.
posted by amberglow at 5:11 PM on January 27, 2005

I notice no one's suggested joining the US Armed Services.

If you survive your tour or three in Iraq, the Army will pay for darn near as much school as you can manage not to flunk out of. And right now the Army needs more recruits - I understand that recruiters are pretty much authorized to pull out all the stops and offer you good financial and educational incentives to join up.

I also second the idea of transferring to a state ($0 tuition) school. You'll probably be giving something up, but I'm guessing that with 35 hours a week in paid work, much of what you're theoretically giving up you don't have time to take advantage of anyway.

I sympathize with you and hope that things work out for you. Education is the best thing available on this sorry old planet, and your parents' intransigence makes me cry.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:24 PM on January 27, 2005

ikkyu2, we don't have $0 tuition schools (except for Cooper Union, to my knowledge)--even state and city colleges cost at least a couple of thousand a year full-time.
posted by amberglow at 5:54 PM on January 27, 2005

Tuition is the easy part, cost of living is what kills you. Find a school someplace cheaper to live.

my wife is attending UCSantaCruz. Didn't have to pay tuition. But compared to the insane rent around here that is the least of our worries.

If you are on your own--i work and pay rent, she does homework, we will switch someday--find a town where you can afford to live.
posted by th3ph17 at 6:22 PM on January 27, 2005

Amberglow: I didn't realize that. Simon's Rock of Bard is the canonical $0 school in NY, but obviously not everyone can go there - they look for a particular sort of nutbar, not just any old nutjob like you and me.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:43 PM on January 27, 2005

I didn't know Bard had anything free either. : >
posted by amberglow at 7:45 PM on January 27, 2005

ikkyu2, we don't have $0 tuition schools (except for Cooper Union)

The various service academies are $0 tuition, $0 room, $0 board, $0 medical insurance, and they pay you a little bit (which goes to uniforms and such). Downsides are obvious.

In Georgia, you can go to a state university tuition-free under HOPE if you meet whatever academic criteria lead up to it; ISTR that it works out to a B average or better in a normal college-prep sequence in high school.

Florida has a similar program, where tuition at a state U in FL is free, or you can take the same amount of money to a private school in FL, if you have a 3.5 (IIRC) GPA.

There are likely other states that have similar programs.

Harvard no longer charges tuition to families making less than $50K or so; I forget the exact number.

In all of these cases (except the service academies), the costs of living can still add up and require other financial aid, and in all of them the major cost is still just the implicit cost of not earning $15K+ that year.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:06 PM on January 27, 2005

Do you have other family member that could cosign a loan? Maybe an aunt, a grandparent, a close family friend?

My ex-girlie just divorced her parents and is now considered independant. I wouldn't recommend that, though. It was heartbreaking for everyone.
posted by honeydew at 9:51 PM on January 27, 2005

mai, working in a restaurant or bar also endangers any goodwill at all Anon may have for the public. The public is abusive and tips are on average 10%. Yes, it is true. Be a temp if you take time off. I took a year off and went back to school and finished. What did I do on my year off? Worked in restaurants. Only made me want to do anything but.

DO NOT GET any more CREDIT CARD DEBT. Make sure to watch part 3.

Also, I really do think that the military options are not that bad. Becoming a doctor on your own is one way to stick it to your parents and make sure your own kids don't have to go through this. And really, I only suggest using this if you want to become a doctor, in which case you'd have some distance from any fighting.
posted by scazza at 10:01 PM on January 27, 2005

Uh, Simons Rock is a high school that gives college credit. It costs almost 40,000k a year with room and board.
posted by goneill at 11:50 PM on January 27, 2005

When I was Anonymous's age, I had the experience - several times a week, it seemed - of people, most of whom had never met the man, justifying my father's behavior or suggesting that I'd "understand" his actions when I got older. Many of these were nice people, but to this day I want to kick them in the teeth for their stupidity and callousness.

Some parents really are heartless and mean. It's simply a fact of life. I don't know whether that's the case with Anonymous's family. But it might be. So, you know, don't assume.
posted by Clay201 at 5:19 AM on January 28, 2005

Yes, you can get independent student status.

Floydd noted the general rules above. However, schools can decide in their "professional judgement" that you should be independent, and tell the feds, so that you get help from the school and from federal loans.

I went to GWU and though my mom is poor, she wouldn't give me her financial information, necessary to the FAFSA. I explained this situation, along with a somewhat complicated history of leaving home early, and they came back to me within a couple hours with a fat offer of financial aid. I ended up with only 10k in loans per year and they took care of the rest.

Here's my advice: talk to financial aid and try and make it sound as much like you're really on your own as possible, that in effect you have no parents (if this is the case, of course) or otherwise are particularly needy or fit well within the independent student type without meeting the technical requirements.

If that doesn't work out, take time off from school, pay off the credit cards, and go back. Take time off again as needed to prevent credit card debt.

When you go back, you might want to take one of those jobs your financial aid officer talked about - if it's full time (generally this amounts to only 35 hours anyway, and it'll be in a convenient location) then you can potentially go to school for free within a year or so - check out your school's policy. My good friend did school that way and was busy, but very happy with no debt, not to mention proud of herself.
posted by lorrer at 7:28 AM on January 28, 2005

Your parents are assholes. Cosigning a student loan isn't giving them more debt, it's giving YOU more debt.

I say fuck them over, fuck them hard. Odds are they still want to claim you on their taxes. They don't support you, so legally they can't. The second you get a W2 file. If you need more, just file with what you have, and don't spend the refund. amend later if you need to, but once you efile claiming yourself they won't be able to efile at all, and they'll need to actually provide concrete proof to the IRS that they provide more than half of your support to get that deduction. (your loans are support to yourself, and just saying they're your parents doesn't cut it with the IRS)

If anything you'll have a decent refund to help a bit, and it'll help prove your independence case to the school in the future.

I know tons of people who were in that situation, and they were double screwed each year by "well meaning" mom and dad. They had to support themselves, and then ended up with a fat tax bill since mom and dad still wanted to claim them.

Also, I would tell them you've decided to enlist so you can pay for school. Maybe that will scare some sense into them.
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:26 AM on January 28, 2005

Interesting the people here who automatically think the parents are fuckwits without any background explanation as to (1) if he/she lives in the same town as them, and could presumably have the option of living at home (despite it's aggravations), thereby saving everyone big bucks (rent/utilities, tax, etc.), (2) what the parent's financial situation is other than making enough to disqualify him/her from grants/loans, (3) what they're stage in live is WRT retirement & savings, (4) whether he/she left home on a good or bad relationship footing with the parents and why, etc.

As an aside, I fully expect to be here in a couple of years with my daughter, who is head-strong, semi-bipolar, thinks rules don't apply to her & that her parents make her life a living hell & can't wait to get out on her own, without any clue as to how tough it's going to be or what an opportunity she has to stay at home while going to college for at least the first couple of years. Compromise isn't in her - instant gratification is the order of the day. Those who are in a hurry to get out on their own need to appreciate what ON THEIR OWN means before doing so & then coming back to Mom & Dad to subsidize their new lifestyle. May not apply to this poster, & I certainly don't mean to be snarky to them, but ya'll should hesitate to be so immediately judgemental of the parent's shittiness when you have no clue. The fact of life is not an entitlement.

No one's mentioned it here, and the suggestion may not be well-received by many Mefites, but the poster may wish to talk to the college ROTC folks, who could also help. Yeah, it may have it's downsides.
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:28 AM on January 28, 2005

I am very late to this party, but myself and my brother looked into this option: My rich uncle. Our parents did co-sign on our loans, but it was (and is) hard for them -- they don't have the cash to pay back our loans if we default, so it's a bit of a gamble. But they do love us and they did co-sign (remember, a cosigner is not paying any money out of pocket -- they only pay if you can't).
posted by zpousman at 8:54 AM on January 28, 2005

Which may beg the question - What degree field are you going into? An undergraduate in engineering or other field that you can clearly demonstrate has good prospects for employment straight out of school at a meaningful wage makes a hell of a better supporting argument that you can cover the loan withht default than does a degree requiring post-graduate work to do so or a soft-science or art degree. & may help bring your parents around.
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:04 AM on January 28, 2005

withht? "without"
posted by Pressed Rat at 9:05 AM on January 28, 2005

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