How do You Pay for College When You Can't Pay for College?
October 6, 2011 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Hypothetical: You're young, black, trying to go to an arts college, and can't pay for it out of pocket. How do I turn that frown upside down?

Okay. There's money out there to get people into school. At least, that's what the conventional wisdom is. But help me understand: where can a young black man find financial aide, of varying stripes, to get him into art school? It seems like it must be daunting enough to keep a significant number of people away from that money, if it exists. Assume his family is financially unable to help.

I feel like this must be doable if you know how to navigate the system(s), but I never had to go outside my family to pay for college, and really want (need) to understand how this works for *cough* the 99%. Thanks in advance!
posted by Poppa Bear to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
FAFSA. Schools have financial aide offices to answer this very question. But listen to all the people who went to college and still can't find a job because they majored in something that didn't translate to marketable job skills.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:57 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

One way that I did it was to take school a bit slower and work a little bit more. Perhaps that doesn't cover all of it, but it did help pay for a big chunk. I used modest student loans to pay for the rest. I went to a state school, so this was perhaps more financial viable. If you are talking about private tuition, that might be another story.

So summary:

1. I was happy with a state education (which also had a decent art program, although it wasn't my major). State schools are getting a bit more expensive, though, depending on where.
2. I went slower, worked a bit more, which made it more affordable at any one time.
3. I supplemented it with reasonable Stafford loans (FAFSA).

Of course, there are scholarships out there if you can look in the right places. I've been of the opinion, though, that if done carefully, and without unreasonable exceptions about where and how quickly one goes through school, it's pretty doable without having significant scholarship help, and without wrecking one's financial future with too many loans.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:00 PM on October 6, 2011

An art school would most likely use the federal aid program (FAFSA), but these days that doesn't amount to much more than a few thousand dollars a semester in the pell program and varying amounts of loans.

If you really want to help the guy, help him find a cheap state school (from the state he's from) and look at financial aid and tuition costs early on. Art school is way too expensive for someone in his position.

Also encourage him to live at home or in a cheap off campus apartment instead of the dormitory which are way too expensive (with mandatory meal plans and the like).

Finally - the end result needs to be twofold: A degree (it can be in art or whatever he likes) and as little debt as possible. I doubt he will be able to graduate debt-free, but he needs to understand that these goals are of almost equal importance.
posted by Think_Long at 7:02 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a rule of thumb, the more elite the school the more money they have to help pay the way of poorer students. The biggest schools practice "needs blind" admission--they admit who they want and then figure out how to help the students pay for it. I was in my mid-20s, independent of my parents and did not have a dime when I was accepted at the University of Chicago. So they gave me a free ride.

Don't put the cart before the horse. Apply to your chosen schools. With acceptance will come financial aid packages. See what they offer you.
posted by LarryC at 7:06 PM on October 6, 2011

Hmm, back this up a little. What kind of school do you want to attend? Do you want to go to a liberal arts college? Or an art academy?

If you want to got to a COLLEGE, that's a lot easier. It depends on bit on you as a student, and your experience, and what kind of environment you want to be in, but there's plenty of schools in the U.S. where your ability to pay doesn't matter.

If you want to go to art school, well, what you really want, likely, is to go to Cooper Union, which has no tuition.

Can you give us some examples of what kind of schools you want to attend? (Or just email me.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:08 PM on October 6, 2011

The advertising and (to some extent) design industries have been trying to increase their diversity. Even if you're not explicitly interested in advertising or art direction, you might look into groups like Mosaic Center, as they might have some scholarship programs or ideas for you. Many art schools do offer scholarships for students who fit certain criteria, just like other colleges and universities.

Do you have a clear idea of what you want to study or specific schools in mind? If so, I might have more ideas for you.
posted by pourtant at 7:40 PM on October 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Here are some more relevant details:

We're looking at Chicago Art Institute, one year in, and only now is there a "whoah, we probably can't afford this" vibe coming from the family involved.
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:19 PM on October 6, 2011

Response by poster: Also (ugh),
not going back to CAI is probably not a(n emotional) possibility. I understand that there are other, more reasonable, ways to go about post-high school education, but we're not looking at those possibilities. Yet.
posted by Poppa Bear at 8:24 PM on October 6, 2011

So he is already there? What's his financial aid package?
posted by k8t at 9:21 PM on October 6, 2011

Cooper Union is free if you get in.

I'm sure you know this school, but maybe you can get in?
posted by jbenben at 9:56 PM on October 6, 2011

It's too bad he didn't apply for a scholarship last year-- it looks like they're only for new students. Definitely apply for financial aid. Next, find any and all organizations that may this young man and find out if any of them offer scholarships. For instance, is he part of a church? Is he black? (May have to do some digging on that one.) Is he from Illnois? Did either of his parents work for Roseburg? (Okay, probably not, but where did they work, and do any of them offer scholarships.) Anything either he or is parents either is or belongs to could be a potential scholarship or grant. Do a lot digging and searching for possibilities. It doesn't matter how small the grant is, they all add up. (When I was in college I was able to win a scholarship from my college, get a work study job, win an outside Quaker scholarship, and an outside scholarship for children of lesbian and/or gay people. I think I also applied to a few purely need based scholarships, and one for intercity kids. Combine that with a summer job and it works out pretty well.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:07 PM on October 6, 2011

Is this the school you are talking about?
posted by Good Brain at 12:50 PM on October 7, 2011

If this young man has decent grades and a good portfolio, there are usually a limited number of merit or mixed merit/need-based scholarships, especially for minorities and disadvantaged students. However full-ride scholarships are rare, and his family will need extra loans and federal aid to pay the remainder.

I would actually recommend an alternate route. Art departments at state universities and community colleges are heck of a lot cheaper than art schools and give more aid and scholarships. The instruction can be every bit as good as a dedicated art school. Some are prestigious in their own right.

If only the chicago art institute will do though, I'd see what their transfer requirements are and do as many credits as possible (general education, non art, not your art specialty credits) at community college or possibly state university and then transfer in. I'm sure there are specific kinds of art he would prefer to focus on. He could take his non preferred specialty courses like general 2d/3d or math/history/etc elsewhere and plan on taking the bulk of his specialty at the chicago art institute.

No matter what path he takes, encourage him to actually do the thing he wants to do. Right Now. If he wants to make films, he should write scripts, watch films, do storyboards, learn how to use a camera. If he wants to make graphic novels or animation then he should be writing and drawing and sketching every day. Have him meet others who are doing what he wants to do, get involved in the art community online, become what it is he wants to be. This is far more important than having money or a diploma.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 3:30 PM on October 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've spent the past 4 years helping young black students find money to attend art schools (as well as other schools). I'm out of the office for the weekend, but expect a memail from me first thing in the morning on Monday. If you don't hear from me by the end of day on Monday, send me a reminder memail.
posted by chara at 1:00 PM on October 8, 2011

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