Ideas for a ~$25,000 grant, First World / Snowflake edition
April 9, 2013 12:12 PM   Subscribe

Assume you had $25,000 to spend on schooling or other professional training certification, what would you do?

So, enough beating around the bush, it's something I could apply for and very likely obtain with minimal legwork.

Terms and conditions:

- Funds would only be available for tuition, books, fees, on-campus housing, and meal tickets.
- Funds have to be disbursed directly to the university or could go to the student if and only if he/she has an alternative full paid tuition gig, and then only in $1,000 lump sums once a semester. Submitting receipts for things like textbooks/materials is supported.
- Maintain a 2.0 GPA or whatever is the parallel if not in a collegiate setting.
- Programs such as becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant, Real Estate Agent, etc are supported. Conferences, continuing education, workshops are not.

Personal details:

- I already have a degree in the Engineering field, which I'm not currently using in my day job (don't ask).
- I hate being stuck in the rat race, commuting to work (even through mild traffic, big city traffic would drive me insane), and tend to be very cynical about working in a corporate environment. First world problems and I'm glad I have a job/healthcare/etc , but still, just being honest.
- MrsEld will graduate sometime soon and, god willing, begin working in a field she loves and has worked very hard for very long to get into. I'm not on board with having a 2 income household that leads to daycare/childcare for our hypothetical kiddo(s); hence a likely MrMom situation for myself on the horizon. I'm thrilled with that as long as we can sufficiently provide for our family. We're simple, DIY, homecooked food people who aren't interested in keeping up with Joneses anyway, so I'm fairly confident that if anyone can nowadays, we can.
- I'm smart and pretty flexible and maybe even inventive but not exactly looking to get into a consulting or private enterprise venture, even if I magically knew it would be successful. I'd rather focus on being self sufficient and less dependent on outside sources if it came to that.
- Right now, with MrsEld still in school, we're not hurting but we're not exactly flush with cash either so I'd rather not start something that's going to require me to put in additional funds above and beyond the scholarship. It's not out of the question but it isn't negligible either.
- We wouldn't necessarily be moving into an on-campus type housing nor across the country any time soon, but include online things that might be of interest if you think they're neat.
- I am not against getting my hands dirty in something like a HVAC repair, Welding training, or ASME automotive cert or something. I just wouldn't know where to start and/or if it'd be worthwhile.
- I like to garden and help people. And long walks on the beach... feel free to MeFi stalk me for more info if you want. Or Memail me.

So, where does that leave me? I'm sitting on the potential for an opportunity some people would kill for* but I don't really have a use in mind for it, now or in the short term. But I don't know what I don't know so this is where AskMe comes in I guess.

TL;DR - What interesting use could you find for $25,000 in educational funding if it fell out of the sky into your lap?

*Yes, yes, TANSTAAFL and all that but really, truly, take my word for it: by taking this money I am not disenfranchising someone else who may need it more. I don't want to go into it but if you feel the deep need to know more just memail me and I'll explain it I guess...
posted by RolandOfEld to Education (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
God, there are a million things I would love to study, just for the hell of it, but I can't afford to do that. I would just take any course that caught my eye and damn the consequences. I'd study linguistics and macroeconomics and bookbinding and theology for a start.
posted by windykites at 12:20 PM on April 9, 2013

What interesting use could you find for $25,000 in educational funding if it fell out of the sky into your lap?

I'd get a masters in whatever is interesting and related to your career.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oenology and Viticulture.

You've got chemistry, biology, math, meteorology, marketing, and tons of get-your-hands-dirty stuff, including gardening. It's a great, big range plus, you know, making wine.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:33 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: I'd get a masters in whatever is interesting and related to your career.

While that is the trivial answer it's not what I'm looking for really since A) I'm not currently using my undergrad degree, which partly was followed through with based upon sheer dogged hardheadedness, nor is the job I'm currently in, decent as it is, something I'm looking at as a career.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Oenology and Viticulture.

That's.... kinda brilliant.

I've made gallons of my own wine/beer before, if you didn't pull that out of my posting history here, so... yea. Great idea.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2013

It sounds like you're looking for a career change. If so, how would you feel about programming? It's a job that lends itself to the possibility of telecommuting, if you don't like freelancing. You could start with the free online CodeAcademy courses, etc, but supplement with a few actual comp sci courses at your local university, and eventually go to Hacker School or a similar intensive program to launch into it fulltime.
posted by jacalata at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: If so, how would you feel about programming?

That's akin to what I do now, not exactly programming related but very much tied into SQL DBs and managing programmers. It's a job. That's about it. I'd not want to make it a lifestyle/career, despite how awesome the work from home potential is for people that are decent/good at it.

Plus, while I'm decent at math and have taken a few entry level CS courses in my time, it's not my thing so I couldn't ever see myself head down busting out C#/Java/whatever is the flavor of the week code.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2013

With a degree in engineering and a not-minding-getting-your-hands dirty, I would look into training in one of the more cerebral sides of the building/facilities trades, such as building automations or energy efficiency. Those fields are understaffed right now and will pay a lot better than your run-of-the-mill HVAC repair licensing or welder certification program.
posted by drlith at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it were me, I'd be all over Forensic Accounting.

You can do it as a consultant, and there are a number of Universities that offer it as a major/additional degree.

I'd be inclined to do FAU, but I like Boca. YMMV.

Once the kids get to be school age, you'll be looking for something to do while they're there. Also you can work in law enforcement, government or a corporate environment.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:55 PM on April 9, 2013

What do you want to do after the year is over?

I'd want to study urban design, landscape design architecture, something transportation-related, or get started on a dental hygiene program followed by a dietician license focused on studying the improvement of oral hygiene through the nutrition in food.

Or I'd want to get an internship and work on legalizing composting toilets, greywater, rocket stoves, etc.
posted by aniola at 1:03 PM on April 9, 2013

Master Gardener! You can take classes, meet people in your location and learn about the local flora and fauna. Usually there's a work project involved with the whole thing (at least in Vermont) and then you can answer questions for the local Ag extension or teach classes or do various other fun outdoorsy things. You can even specialize in something and become That _______ Guy and help people with their beetle invasions or cutting down trees after a storm. Problem is the programs aren't really that expensive so you could supplement it with things like stone-wall building and other home DIY-ish things (basic plumbing, electrical, whatever) which would help keep home costs low.
posted by jessamyn at 1:38 PM on April 9, 2013

An online Master's of Applied Statistics from Penn State would set you back about $22,000 and then you could work for the Census Bureau!!
(okay, so that's what I would do with the $25k in free tuition)
posted by jabes at 1:52 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about immersion language study? The summer Language Schools at Middlebury are both very expensive and entirely worth it. In my experience/opinion it's an especially good, well-structured way for a motivated person to get a footing in an entirely new language.
posted by RogerB at 2:12 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: All those are cool ideas to toss about and see what sticks.

jessamyn, I had no idea Master Gardener was an actual certification, that will be investigated further for sure. I already got the victory gardener, country boy chops. Not to mention I've volunteered on various organic farms years ago. That sort of work, hands in the dirt, would be such a boon to my cynical, watch-the-world-as-it-burns view that develops at times.

A masters in a financial format might be nice, as I could perhaps assist MrsEld's mom during tax season as she's a CPA with her own firm that's always swamped. Forensic Accounting actually sounds like pretty much what she does with respect to auditing municipalities. I wonder how that course work would look without an undergrad degree to match.

Language is another great option, although I wonder if it'd fit the guidelines, perhaps worth a shot though if only to make for an interesting future travel option.
posted by RolandOfEld at 3:52 PM on April 9, 2013

Interestingly enough, I found myself in a similar situation three years ago. This is what the decision process looked like for me:

I had ten years in the Navy to think about what I really wanted to do next. After three different jobs in the military-- Navigation for surface ships, technical writing and program management, and foreign languages-- I realized that most of this was "head work" and that I really wanted to learn some practical skills for my second career. I often said to myself, "I wish there was a college degree where I could learn a little bit of everything, and then get a good job afterwards."

It turns out there is. They renamed the career field a few years ago, so I wasn't familiar with what I wanted until I did some research. They call it Technology Education now, instead of Vocational Education as they did when I was younger. It means you can teach carpentry, electronics, metal fabrication, welding, robotics, construction, drafting and manufacturing at a high school or middle school. A big push in this field now is "Project Lead the Way," a high school pre-engineering curiculum (hmm, maybe they could use a Mechanical Engineer?)

For a person who was tired of work that mostly involved powerpoints and Gantt Charts, this is like a dream come true. When I was in high school 25 years ago, the big push was for everyone to go to college, and then we would all get rich selling each other insurance and working in banks. That turned out really well, didn't it? Nowadays schools are a bit more savvy that a modern nation needs to produce and manufacture items in stead of just consuming them. Anyway, I digress. Tech Ed was a good fit for me since it provides an introduction to all of the various technical skills that I'm interested in. And everything in the military after the first three years pretty much involves teaching a new crop of teenagers every year, so I felt confident in my skills as an instructor, and what they now call "classroom management."

Anyway, I notice that Florida A&M down in your neck of the woods offers a Technology Education program. So it might be something to look into. I don't even mind the education classes-- they are surprisingly interesting and practical, which is something I never would have anticipated. Also, the FAMU program has an emphasis in IT, which would seem to be a good fit considering your background and skillset.

Now, I'm not suggesting you should become a shop teacher (although it's great for me, and there are 5-10 job openings for every graduate of my program) but I did want to show you how I went through a similar decision process. I think you should ask yourself what you really want to do. It is such a strange feeling for me now after so many years, to be interested and excited about work and school every day. Go claim that feeling for yourself!
posted by seasparrow at 4:00 PM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tech Ed was a good fit for me since it provides an introduction to all of the various technical skills that I'm interested in. And everything in the military after the first three years pretty much involves teaching a new crop of teenagers every year, so I felt confident in my skills as an instructor, and what they now call "classroom management."

This is such a good point. I work at a regional vocational high school (though mostly in the Adult Ed program) and it's such a different headspace from what you think of as "high school" The kids are different, most of the teachers are working tradespeople, there's a lot of emphasis placed on social skills and personal growth in addition to school skills. I love the work that I do there and the people that I do it with.
posted by jessamyn at 6:48 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know that the Master Gardner is what you're looking for. In Vermont, it's one night a week for less than a semester plus some busy work and community service. My mom did it a year ago and from what I gathered, it was interesting, but not life-changing nor hugely intellectually stimulating. But she's now officially an invasive species detector or something.
posted by hoyland at 9:52 PM on April 9, 2013

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